Sunday, September 20, 2009

Afghan Update: Stealing an Election

President Hamid Karzai got a little closer to "winning" the election in Afghanistan this week as an unofficial tally gave him just over 54% of the vote - enough to avoid a run-off with the man in second place, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Charges of wide-spread vote fraud though continue to swirl and Karzai himself admitted that there were some "irregularities" in the August election. But he insisted that it wasn't part of a government-backed attempt to steal the vote, but rather a few isolated incidents by people who just love him so much they couldn't help themselves from voting for him two or three or fifty times.

Lame as that excuse is, it just might be enough to keep him in office. So far the international community, while not happy with the Afghani election, seems awfully reluctant to step in and declare it a fraud. The United Nations is "confident" that any issues with the election can be sorted out and have ordered their independent Electoral Complaints Commission to do a recount of 10% of the ballots.

That sounds great, except if you do a recount of fraudulently stuffed ballot boxes, all you're doing is counting a lot of bogus votes a second time - you're not getting at the heart of the fraud, you're just endorsing its results. And apparently there are some people within the UN mission who aren't happy with their bosses' decisions. Peter Galbraith, America's top diplomat in the UN Afghan mission, abruptly left Afghanistan, apparently over a disagreement with his boss over the handling of the vote fraud. Galbraith wanted to toss out the results from 1,000 polling stations and recount those from 5,000 more - a much more aggressive stance than the UN position of just recounting votes from 1,000 stations.

The international community has been reluctant to go that far, and likely won't in the future. Their position is that its better to let a fraudulent election stand than to risk the chaos that could be caused by trying to hold a new election with the harsh Afghan winter fast approaching and the Taliban active in much of the country.

So much for that idea of trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan...
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