“Without rigging, Karzai will lose the vote in southern Afghanistan,” Dr Abdullah told The Times. “People are crossing ethnic, linguistic and regional lines.”
At the last election in 2004, Mr Karzai won in the first round with 55.4 per cent of the vote and vowed to eradicate terrorism, poverty, corruption and the opium trade.
Five years on, he has not only failed on all of those counts; a Taleban insurgency has enveloped most of the country and international forces have suffered their bloodiest month since 2001.
The election is seen not just as a test of his popularity but of the entire international mission in Afghanistan. “The legitimacy of the international community’s involvement in Afghanistan is at stake in this election,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network. “These British soldiers — if they’ve died for something that ends in a mess then you simply can’t defend it.” [continued…]
In two weeks, or six if there is a run-off, Afghanistan will have a new president for the next five years. Whether in five years the new president will still have Afghanistan is uncertain. It depends not on the elections themselves but on what happens afterwards.
These elections, as part of a broader strategic review, will, it is hoped, re-energise the troubled international effort to secure and stabilise Afghanistan by bringing a new legitimacy to a government elected by an imperfect but theoretically universal suffrage.
However, as Benazir Bhutto once explained to me patiently and somewhat ironically given the records of her own governments, if in developed countries a leader’s legitimacy comes from being chosen in free and fair elections, in her own Pakistan and in states like it, legitimacy comes more from post-election performance. This needs to be nuanced, of course, as all such generalisations do, but it is nonetheless fair to say that there are few Afghans who have much confidence in the electoral process itself, justifiably given the scale of potential fraud and the security problems. So it is what happens post-election that will determine whether the winner is seen by the population generally to deserve their position or not. [continued…]
Just five days before a presidential election that the Taliban has vowed to thwart, a massive suicide car bomb exploded outside the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul on Saturday morning, killing seven people and wounding scores of others in the largest attack in the capital in months.
The 8:30 a.m. blast, on the main road outside the concrete barriers that wall off the U.S. and NATO headquarters, along with the U.S. Embassy, was the first major in Kabul since February, when Taliban insurgents attacked three government buildings, killing at least 19 people. The explosion Saturday set cars on fire, crumbled concrete walls and shattered windows of buildings hundreds of yards from the explosion site. [continued…]