First of all you have massive insecurity in parts of the country, which makes it A, very difficult for people to voice safely, for people to campaign safely for the logistics of the election to reach all of these different corners and to get ballots out to these areas and open polling stations.  And so that is an enormous problem, this question of security.  It also makes it difficult to monitor the election.  If you have an area that is insecure it is much easier to commit fraud because there is no one there who is able to monitor the process or it is much more difficult to do so.  So security was going to be a problem.  At the same time there had been fraud in the elections in 2004 and 2005, now these were relatively good elections and the outcome was good enough that a lot of people accepted it, but this election was quite different from the previous election.  First this election was being done not by the international community, but by the Afghans and so you had capacity issues about whether the Afghans had the ability to carry out the elections, but you also had political issues about whether the independent election commission for instance was in fact independent.

Was it a tool of the government that appointed them or were they going to be independent, so that was another concern that people raised and then the final concern that came up, which grew as the election got closer was that President Karzai believed that he had the election in the bag that he was going to win the election, but two things happened.  One there were some signals that maybe the Americans were not completely backing Karzai in this election or at least that they were neutral.  At the same time you had a candidate Dr. Abdullah, who was Karzai’s former foreign minister who started to gain some traction.  He was campaigning and started to attract large crowds in different parts of the country and the people around Karzai got nervous that maybe the election wasn’t in the bag.  Now even if they thought he would be the first candidate the Afghan election system is a presidential system requires that the winner get more than 50% of the vote and there were some polls that came out in the months before the election that indicated that President Karzai did not have 50% support.  He was the leader, but he didn’t have 50% support and so it became increasingly possible that he would go into a runoff election against the number 2 which looked like it was going to be Dr. Abdullah.

And I think that the Karzai people were very nervous that if he went in to a runoff election it would demonstrate that he was week, it might demonstrate that he didn’t have international support and therefore that he could potentially lose in a runoff election or that he would be weakened and his stature would be weakened and what I think happened is that some plans for fixing of the election got panicked at the end and that people who wanted President Karzai to win probably went a little bit overboard.  One of the things you have to understand about the Afghan system because it is a highly centralized government is that President Karzai appoints everybody, the local police, the local district governors, the local ministry officials, they are all appointed by the center.  There is devolution of political authority even though in reality Afghanistan is one of the most highly devolved societies on the planet and so the problem that you have is that every sort of guy at the district level owes his job to Karzai and so it doesn’t have to be that Karzai came up with some central scheme for all of the fraud, but all of these people understood that if Karzai didn’t win they could be out of the job, but they were very good at it.  The fraud was very clumsy and so what happened is that you had this election and three things happened. The first turnout was very low.  Voter turnout in the 2004 election was around 70%.  It looks like voter turnout in this election may have been as low as 30%.  So because of insecurity because of apathy voter turnout is bad.  It is especially bad of course in the very insecure areas of the country.

Viewed 7341