For those of you who, like me, are wondering what the hell just happened with the elections in Afghanistan, here is a simple recap of recent events:
Elections happened (Yay for democracy!)
Karzai won (well done old chap)
They were fraudulent (Doh!)
General dithering over what to do next (um, well, err…)
Some votes were recounted (one, two, three…)
Karzai lost (ohh)
A second round was suggested, along with some changes to the procedures to reduce likelihood of fraud (hear hear)
Karzai agreed to a second round but declined to make said changes (hold on a minute…)
Abdullah realised he could both avoid an embarrassing defeat and still look really cool, in fact look like the only person with an inch of credibility in the whole show (not saying much), by declining to participate in a second round of fraudulent elections (scab!)
Karzai figured that since it was now a one-horse race he may as well forgo the vote rigging part and just win (all bets are off)
Karzai won (Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this…)
International community stood around scratching their heads looking a little shocked (um, well, err…)
The whole process has had all the ‘legitimacy’ of a celebrity UNHCR ambassador caught killing refugees, boiling them down to make glue and sniffing it. All that money and all those people who died – including some of those in last week’s attack on the UN in Kabul, plus many more foreign soldiers and many more Afghan civilians and civil servants – were for what exactly?
Can we just pretend none of this ever happened? For the first time I found myself thinking maybe foreign troops should pull out; they’re being taken for a ride by the government they’re there to support. On reflection I still don’t, as the rural poor would be the ones to suffer the consequences the most. But ye gods, it’s all befuddlingly depressing. Foreigners trying their damndest to shape the course of events, and failing miserably; Karzai demonstrating a lack of honesty and honour worthy of a much better fucking politician than he is; while the UN dithered and appeased so much they surely loose all semblance of their hard-won credibility in the eyes of most Afghans.
Maybe none of this really matters. Maybe Karzai is just as useless as any other but he does at least have the benefit of having won more votes cast than any other, and no on really expected otherwise. Maybe, as an AREU paper suggests, the elections have changed the political landscape at the local level, providing a peaceful means of changing the balance of power. Maybe a large chunk of Afghanistan’s rural population had the political nous and foresight to see through the whole thing from the start and won’t be greatly perturbed by these parlour games.
Things will muddle through one way or another as they always do, but a great deal of damage has been done to all concerned in the process, not least the UN.