All Calm? Not So Fast, Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s April 5 elections were cleaner and calmer than those in 2009. Calmer is a subjective term. Certainly Jamaluddin, a taxi driver in Charikar district of Parwan province, who was injured by an explosion near a polling location, would not call his election experience calm. “Next election, I won’t go,” he says. John Wendle’s piece in Aljazeera illustrates the continued individual-level chaos in Afghanistan

Wendle points out that “although Kabul seemed to heave a collective sigh of relief when polls closed at the end of the day with no attack on the capital, the situation in the countryside was somewhat different.”

Reports on the number of attacks on election day throughout the country vary. Where security is concerned perception is more important than truth. The security of Kabul, however, cannot be extrapolated outward to represent the security of Afghanistan. The belief by citizens that the government in Kabul cannot protect them is an ill omen.

Zalmay Rassoul, thought to be polling third behind Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, is the only of the three major candidates to make a public promise to accept the election commission’s results.

Rod Nordland and Matthew Rosenberg reported recently in the New York Times that Ghani and Abdullah have both registered complaints of irregularities. Both candidates have also stopped short of committing to accept the official outcome. This, too, is troublesome. Withholding their acceptance of the election results is a hedge—if the election does not turn in their favor, each leaves open alternative avenues to power.

If the leadership (and aspiring leadership) of Afghanistan holds little faith in the democratic process, why should the people?

The next test occurs when the election results are announced sometime at the end of April. Most analysts seem to believe that there will be a run-off between Abdullah and Ghani. Unfortunately, the future of Afghanistan rests on an elite class of leadership with no experience in the peaceful exchange of power or in the important art of displaying grace in defeat.

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