When election results are disputed: Afghanistan, etc

When election results are strongly disputed from within the community they were held in, this represents–obviously– a deep crisis of power and legitimacy within that community.
That’s the case in Iran today, more than three months after their disputed election. It was also the case in the US in November-December 2004, lest anyone forget…
That post-election dispute was brought to an end by a fiat from the US Supreme Court; and the Supremes’ notably undemocratic ruling then met with surprisingly rapid acceptance from the vast majority of voters, even Democrats. (How different would the history of our country and the world be if Al Gore had been inaugurated in 2001? Who can know?)
But whether you liked what the Supremes did in December 2000 or not, at least in our country there are mature institutions of national governance that were able to withstand, contain, and end the deep internal division over who won the November 2000 election.
And then, there’s Afghanistan.
Mature institutions of national governance? Um, no.
That’s why I think Brian Katulis and Hardin Lang have things rather wrong in the post they have on the Af-Pak blog today, in which they seem to be assuming that somehow (they don’t say how), a new and somewhat capable president will emerge there in the relatively near future, and will be able to get on relatively easily with the tasks of ending the country’s very, very serious insurgency and its urgent tasks of governance reform.
Not so fast, guys! Why are you assuming that, from that very flawed and now deeply contested election anyone can easily emerge as a winner and start to get on with such tasks?
(I guess Katulis and Hardin have some personal/professional investment in the August 20 elections being generally seen as having been “successful”, since they went to the country as part of one of the internatinal election-monitoring teams? On the other hand, if you think that the real mission of an international election-monitoring team is to monitor and uphold the idea that elections must be, and be seen to be, free and fair, then maybe they should not be so quick in assuming that this one was well-run enough to generate a legitimate winner.)
Those most at risk, if the dispute over the election results turns into all-out fighting between Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, are of course Afghanistan’s long war-battered people, who would have to put up with that new conflict tearing up that society along with all the other conflicts that are already wracking it.
But the US-NATO position in Afghanistan is also at risk if the US doesn’t have an Afghan ruling “partner” who has at least some semblance of internal and international legitimacy.
And right now, NATO itself is coming under huge strains from the Afghan war.
Who was it who first said “NATO must go out-of-area or go out of business?” (F. Stephen Larrabee, 1993.)
“Out of business” is now a much more live possibility than it was back then.

6 thoughts on “When election results are disputed: Afghanistan, etc

  1. John Franklin

    I don’t think a leader like Karzai could ever gain support in regions like Kandahar where the Taliban is a more appealing form of government than a U.S.-backed democratically (if fraudulently) elected president. http://tinyurl.com/lksekg

  2. JohnH

    The US and their NATO junior partners have both definitely come to a fork in the road, which they will certainly take. But if you don’t know where you’re going, you may not get there. Too bad Yogi Berra isn’t around to blog about the foreign policy farce. He’d be a natural.
    M K Bhadrakumar as always has insightful commentary.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KI09Df03.html

  3. bevin

    This is, in no sense, an election. It is a propaganda exercise designed to facilitate speechwriting for NATO politicians. It is not designed to provide the people with an alternative to armed struggle but to prolong the conflict.
    If it were a proper election, political parties, with platforms and principles would be involved. But that would threaten the satrapies of the war lords and gangsters sponsored by NATO, so there are no such parties and no national organisations with national perspectives.
    If it were a real election it is unlikely that the three leading candidates would all be semi-foreigners who came to Kabul in the baggage of the US forces, who are paid and guarded by foreigners and who spent much of their lives working for foreign corporations.
    The truth is that the ‘election’ is a farce, even by the standards favoured by the US government. It’s only useful purpose is, once again, to showcase the appalling hypocrisy of the governments of the countries currently killing Afghans and Pakistanis, for reasons that they have lost the power of explaining, even to their supporters.
    As the system disintegrates the distance between theory and practice has become so wide that they barely know one another. Operation Enduring Freedom, indeed!

  4. Titus

    Agree with Bevin that the election is a farce, the tanker episode by the Germans did kill civilians, and today the bumbling Brits went to rescue a journalist and killed more civilians that Talibans, including an Afghani journalist that was perforated with NATO bullets and the body wasn’t even retrieved. That is bad form and the US should be out of that mess. Just walk away.

  5. Michael W.

    Does anyone have that statistics for the voter turnout?
    My impression from several commentators on Afghanistan is that Afghanistan is hardly a country, and Karzai is no more than the mayor of Kabul. I don’t know how the Afghan political system is set up but perhaps the country needs a political system that is province centered.

  6. Warren L

    Agree that the German attack likely did kill a number of civilians. There needs to be a serious investigation into that incident, and it looks like there will be. It also looks like that incident has pushed German domestic opinion even more against the Afghanistan involvement than before, where there was already substantial opposition. My guess is that various European partners in this fool-hardy American venture will be heading out soon. Our occupation of Afghanistan is incredibly stupid on so many levels, one doesn’t even know where to begin. What a waste of lives, everything. Tragic.

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