View Full Version : Afghanistan Election Thread

08-19-2009, 02:09 AM
I thought I'd get this ball rolling since I think the perceived success or failure of the elections (and the legitimacy of the result) will significantly affect operations for the next year and could even be a decisive indicator for our mission in Afghanistan.

The elections are for the Presidency and provincial councils. Although there are 41 candidates for the Presidency, there are only two are likely to win at this point: Hamid Karzai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamid_Karzai) and Abdullah Abdullah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdullah_Abdullah_%28politician%29). Abdullah is interesting because he is half Pashtun and half Tajik, which is both a political blessing and a curse.

The Presidential election is a contest of factional alliances with each candidate vying for blocks of voters. This is particularly true of Karzai, who has pursued a strategy of bringing opposition supporters into his camp through a variety of means of questionable legitimacy (from a western perspective). The polling at this point is very close and it looks like there will likely be a 2nd round with Karzai as the winner, though that is predicated on a number of assumptions.

Although the Presidential election is interesting, I think the provincial elections are more important. These elections fill provincial councils that, in theory, have co-equal power with governors, who are appointed by the President. In practice, however, the councils have little real power and authority beyond filling 2/3 of the upper house of parliament. IMO the Afghan government will need to empower these councils and enable them to fulfill their full constitutional authority. Should the government fail to do that (and I think that's likely for a number of reasons), then the legitimacy of the central government will be further eroded. There is also the possibility of an effect similar to the 2005 elections in Gaza, where voters voted against a corrupt establishment. In Afghanistan there are a number of pro-Taliban and other candidates hostile to Karzai and the US who could conceivably get elected and make it to the upper house.

Disrupting the elections is a key goal for the Taliban in their efforts to delegitimize the government. An election that is perceived as corrupted or otherwise unrepresentative could be a fatal blow to the government and coalition efforts. This is particularly true since the elections are being run solely by an Afghan commission (http://www.iec.org.af/) without assistance from the UN, unlike the 2005 elections. So far the Taliban are having significant success, as at least 10 percent of polling places will be closed country-wide and at least 30% in the south, though we will not know for sure until election day (20 August). The signs at this point, however, are not good and if the election turns into a disaster then Gen. McCrystal's new strategy for Afghanistan may be aborted before it gets out of the starting block.

Some additional reading/research material:

CRS Report: Afghanistan: Politics, Government Formation and Performance (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21922.pdf) (PDF file).

AREU Report: Elections in 2009 and 2010: Technical and Contextual Challenges to Building Democracy in Afghanistan (http://www.areu.org.af/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=26&task=doc_download&gid=612) (PDF file).

The Analysis Corporation: Afghan Election Primer (http://www.theanalysiscorp.com/AFG%20Elex%20Primer.pdf) (PDF file).

For those of you with OSC access there is an excellent Afghanistan Elections pages with some quality analysis and reporting. Here is the link (https://www.opensource.gov/portal/server.pt/community/afghanistan/1140/afghan_elections/188227). Those eligible for OSC access can sign up here (http://www.opensource.gov/).

10-30-2009, 11:27 AM
According to this article, http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-10-30-voa11.cfm, the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will not be decided upon until after the upcoming elections on 7 Nov.

I know politics and the military are inextricably linked in COIN, but it seems somewhat rash to base such a momentous decision on an election that already proved to be flawed and corrupt. What are your ideas on the matter?


12-04-2009, 04:24 PM
AREU Post Elections Brief: Losing Legitimacy (http://www.areu.org.af/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=26&task=doc_download&gid=724)? (PDF)

An interesting report based on interviewing people from 3 communities in or around Kabul before and after the elections, and on popular perceptions of "legitimacy."

A couple of highlights:

The legitimacy of the elections were not as damaged by accusations of fraud as some have concluded because legitimacy for many Afghans is more about outcomes than processes, and the legitimacy of Karzai’s new government is based more on what he will now deliver than how he came into office.


Despite some of these criticisms, it is important to note that most respondents said they would participate in the parliamentary elections of 2010. In fact, many stated that people would be “eager” for these next elections and that they would be very “active.” Much of this is due to the perceived importance of parliamentary positions for local communities to access government funds. There is also a sense that parliamentary
elections are important political arenas in which local concerns can be addressed and where local actors can demonstrate their strength by mobilising significant numbers of voters.


Perhaps for this reason then, it was clear that while there were criticisms about the actions of Karzai and his allies during the election, and more general concerns about the failure of the government to provide basic services, respondents—even those supporting other candidates—still favoured a strong, united government led by Karzai over a weaker
coalition government.

Additionally, it is important to note that in almost every criticism
of the Karzai government, there was a linked concern about how the international community was manipulating that government.

It also appears that Afghan resentment of the U.S. and the international community was actually exacerbated by the criticisms of the Karzai government and the pressure that resulted in the abortive second round. This was seen by most Afghans as foreign manipulation or meddling that came across as the Americans basically picking the Afghan government for them, which fed the larger narrative of how Karzai is ineffective at facing up against the foreigners over civilian casualties, detentions, and intrusive searches.

My biggest takeaways are that we are quite close to being perceived as genuine occupiers, while the idea of both elections and a strong central government have not been delegitimized, at least in the places where AREU conducted the interviews.

02-23-2011, 07:17 PM
AAN, 19 Feb 11: Untangling Afghanistan's 2010 Vote: Analysing the Electoral Data (http://www.aan-afghanistan.org/uploads/AAN-2011-Untangling_the_vote.pdf)

This report aims to provide a backdrop to the main controversies by presenting an overview of the publicly available electoral data. It maps what information has been provided, what conclusions can be drawn and what information is still missing – either because it was not shared or because it is not known. The analysis was complicated by the fact that the data was plentiful but incomplete and often contradictory or incompatible. The process of piecing together a rudimentary overview of what happened to the vote required an inordinate amount of time and energy and does not instil confidence that the IEC and ECC were at all times in control of their data.
AREU, 21 Feb 11: Undermining Representative Governance: The 2010 Parliamentary Election and Its Alienating Impact (http://www.areu.org.af/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=26&task=doc_download&gid=857)

Fraught with intimidation, insecurity, fraud and uncertainty, Afghanistan’s 2010 parliamentary election provided a contemporary snapshot of the country’s political system. Moreover, the polls for the lower house Wolesi Jirga directly contributed to rising levels of instability, as opposed to providing a peaceful means of power-sharing. In addition to causing a crisis at the national level, the election emphasised existing conflicts at the local level, prompting new outbreaks of violence as the stakes for a share of political power were raised. This paper analyses the 2010 election as it happened in three provinces (Kabul, Balkh and Paktya), providing insight into the preparations, process and results in these areas.
ICG, 23 Feb 11: Afghanistan’s Elections Stalemate (http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-asia/afghanistan/B117%20Afghanistans%20Elections%20Stalemate.ashx)

The prolonged crisis over Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections has further undermined President Hamid Karzai’s credibility. He is now even more isolated politically than he was after his dubious re-election in 2009. The Wolesi Jirga was inaugurated on 26 January 2011, following a lengthy standoff that exposed sharp political fault lines, which could plunge the country deeper into not just political but armed conflict. Clashes between the executive, legislature and judiciary over the results of the polls are paralysing government and weakening already fragile institutions. Constitutional review is long overdue, and failure to implement changes that reinforce the separation of powers will only further weaken the state’s ability to provide security or good governance. If public confidence is to be restored, the president and Supreme Court must disband a special tribunal that was created to adjudicate elections complaints but lacks a clear legal mandate. The new parliament must also immediately place electoral and constitutional reform at the top of its agenda. If left unaddressed, the current political crisis will stoke ethnic tensions and could drive disenfranchised Afghans into the arms of the Taliban.