Discontent Grumbling or the Beginning of the End

Over the past days both analysts and Afghan voters have been trying to sort out what Ghani and Abdullah’s agreement will mean for the political future of Afghanistan.  One of the things that is clear is that the agreement will only work if supported by the vast majority of key political players in the country.  There is particular concern about some of Abdullah’s hardline supporters.  As these leaders, however, begin to respond to the agreement, the crucial question is whether their complaints are simply political positioning or whether they signal genuine dissent which could lead to an unraveling of the deal.  Already Governor Atta, a key Abdullah supporter, has come out stating that Ghani is not actually the president (see excerpts from an interview on Khaama here) and some parliamentarians are suggesting that Election Commission officials should actually be put on trial (see the Tolo article here).

There are two important things to keep in mind here: First of all, no one should be surprised by Continue reading

What they are saying about the deal: Part II

We had a previous post on what prominent actors were saying about the lack of a decision (see here).  This is a follow up piece on responses to what is hopefully the decision that resolves the current crisis.

  • Ashraf Ghani: “Peace is our demand and, God willing, it will come…I and Dr. Abdullah are committed to the commitments we have made before the people.” (from The Washington Post here)
  • The White House (see Reuters here) : “This agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan.  We continue to call on all Afghans – including political, religious, and civil society leaders – to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm.”
  • The Taliban spokesman in a Continue reading

Why Results Matter Part II

With many breathing a sign of relief as the Abdullah and Ghani have announced a still unspecified power sharing arrangement, the rather surreal Alice in Wonderland approach to elections continues.  On Saturday a deal was announced between Abdullah and Ghani which made Ghani president and Abdullah was given a Chief Executive position.  It was only after this deal was announced at a press conference with the two candidates that the ‘Independent’ Election Commission announced that Ghani had won the election (for more see this NYT article here).  During the announcement, however, no results were released.  Nor were final number of votes invalidated or total number of votes casts mentioned.  This is in sharp contrast with earlier rounds of voting when the IEC has released detailed results regarding polling station numbers even before the results were finalized.

As a result, it is clear that part of the deal was that the results would Continue reading

An Agreement is Reached in the Afghan Election Dispute, but What will it Mean?

In one of the first pieces of good news in months regarding the election in Afghanistan, today, Ghani and Abdullah signed a deal to establish a power sharing government.  Despite this good news, there are still worryingly few details and plenty of room for the arrangement to disintegrate.  In a typical quote on the deal Reuters wrote:  “Both sides said late on Saturday that the dispute over announcing results had been resolved but it was still unclear exactly what had been agreed upon.”  (See full article here)  The real question is whether the Afghan public will support a new arrangement and when so little information is being given to them, it’s hard to tell whether they should or not.  Even the White House, which has been overly optimistic throughout this process seemed hesitant stating: “We continue to call on all Afghans – including political, religious, and civil society leaders – to support this agreement and to come together in calling for cooperation and calm.”

Then next few days should begin to indicate whether there is support for this arrangement, but in the meantime, here’s a brief list of things that we don’t know about the deal:

Why Results Matter

With rumors of a deal finally being reached (see the Khaama article here), there is plenty to worry about in terms of Afghanistan’s troubled transition: what will the powers of the Chief Executive be?  Will the new structure actually be constitutional?  Etc.  But before all those issues are even addressed, the news that the results of the second round of voting may never be released is perhaps most worrying for the future of Afghan democracy (see the NYT article here).  There are understandable reasons why Abdullah, about to concede the presidency despite massive corruption and a flawed voter system for the second time in five years might want the results kept quiet, but doing so would be a mistake.  Not releasing the results sets the precedent that the votes never really matter.  It will emphasize Continue reading

Sensational Trials to Distract Disenfranchised Voters

An election deadlock at the top of the country, may not have halted all other political processes in the country, but it certainly is continuing to distort them in some disturbing ways.  The biggest piece of news out of Afghanistan in the past weeks other than the election was the horrific group rape that occurred just outside of Kabul on Aug 23.

Seven suspects were tried in a matter of days and sentenced to death on Sept 6.  Two have since been acquitted on appeal, but the rush to judgment appears to have been so fast that Human Rights Watch has since released a statement condemning the lack of due process due to political interference:

“The police and court have responded to Continue reading

Growing Impatience

The Wall Street Journal’s article today highlights what they point to as growing support for Karzai remaining on in some role in perhaps an interim government position (see full article here).  On one level this is a sad turn, since, as we argued in earlier pieces, much of the initial turn out of voters was in support of moving past the Karzai era (see the full report).  What this demonstrates is how far the process has descended and how much distrust there is now between the candidates, but also between the voters and the two main candidates.  We heard a lot of voters in the lead up to the elections basically voice their support for “anyone who is not Karzai”.  Evidence of this was found in Zelmai Rassoul, supposedly Karzai’s favored candidates, abysmal showing (11%), which eliminated him from contention (though there are questions of course about Karzai’s lukewarm support of Rassoul and whether he is still simply playing a longer game).  If Karzai is regaining popular support, Continue reading

The Indecision: What they are saying

As negotiations start and stop and the Afghan economy continues to decay, there’s not much happening other than talk in the media.  So to keep everyone updated on what’s being said, here’s some choice excerpts:

karzai-building-11-sep-14

Tolo photo of Karzai opening the new guesthouse

Ahsraf on the current state of negotiations: “We must come together and continue political talks. Afghanistan is the home of all of us; therefore, we need an inclusive national unity government…Our people have always been united. Our enemies should know that we are still united, despite all our political differences,” he asserted. “No one can divide this nation…We supported the 100 percent vote auditing to protect the genuine votes of the people. Therefore, the election commissions must announce the final results in the next few days and rid the nation of the uncertainty that lingers over the country.” (see Tolo)

More from Ghani: “We stood, stand and will stand firm on the formation of the national unity government from the beginning…but it shouldn’t be a two-headed government.” (from Reuters)

Abdullah’s spokesperson, Fazlur Rehman Orya responds: “The problem is the Ashraf Ghani team is trying to impose bogus votes on us. We will not accept them; only clean votes…I would point out one major difference; Ghani favours peace talks with the Taliban and Abdullah does not support any such move.” (see The Express Tribune)

Karzai on the candidates: “We want a new government and that can be brought to us by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.” (see CNN)

Karzai on inaugurating the new presidential guesthouse:  “This beautiful building was constructed in accordance with Continue reading

Happy Massoud Day

On this day to commemorate Ahmad Shah Massoud, assassinated two days before 9/11, the deadlock continues.  Both candidates, as well as Karzai attended a loya jirga ceremony to celebrate the occasion (see the KP piece here).   While all three avoided overtly inflammatory remarks, Tolo did report “chaos” breaking out at one point (see here).  The innuendoes and hints of violence that we have discussed before (see here) also still continue.   Today’s Washington Post piece by Tim Craig quotes Abdullah as saying:download

‘“We are the winner of the election based on the clean votes of the people,” said Abdullah, claiming that the vote was plagued by widespread fraud. “Fraud, fraudulent results and the announcement of the fraudulent results are not acceptable.”  (for the entire article, see here)

What it means to be “acceptable” and what it means to “reject” the vote are, of course, Continue reading

The Language of Violence and Elections

Both candidates have gone out of their way so far to make sure that they cannot be accused of directly encouraging or threatening violence.  However, that does not mean that they have not used other means to insinuate the potential for violence if their side loses out.  One of the key tactics has been having allies suggest that the country will side into violence or civil war if their candidate does not win.  Other times, however, violence is suggested in vague language where it is never clear who the subject is.  E.g. “if I win, things won’t be violent.”  It is egregious, if not surprising, that the electoral process has descended to this.  An article by Jason Straziuso of the Associated Press quotes an Abdullah spokesman in just such an instance (read the entire article here):

“If we agree and the terms of the agreement are providing an equal opportunity for both camps and defuses that tension, it might reduce the prospect of violence,” Mujib Rahman Rahimi, an Abdullah campaign spokesman, told The Associated Press.  “But imagine if you have an agreement that insults one side and promotes the other side and each side firmly believes he is a winner – that could be a recipe for radicals to re-emerge and challenge the leadership and say this is not acceptable,” he said. Continue reading