SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
The aftermath of the Afghanistan 2014 presidential election confirms two big issues of Afghanistan today. Firstly, democracy is at very early stage and elections are not without problems. Secondly, Afghanistan is still a fragile country and needs continued engagement and attention of the international community. Afghans and the international community hailed the most recent April 2014 election as a national voice against the Taliban insurgency and a manifestation of political maturity among the Afghan powerbrokers. But one of the two candidates boycotted the election process, which led to weeks-long standoff on the election and a threat of forming a parallel government. This indicates that Afghanistan is still suffering from political instability and serious political divisions. After 13 years in power, President Hamid Karzai’s inability to figure out a solution to resolve election standoffs that are acceptable to the contending parties forced the intervention of the United States. In the latest case, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kabul and forged a commitment from both the candidates to form a government of national unity.
Nearly two months after Afghans cast their presidential ballots, the electoral battle continues with the possibility of spiraling into violence. With what some dub the Kerry Agreement and the recent sequel Kerry II, the presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah pulled back from the brink, but dispute between the parties continue in a winner-take-all battle amid the UN supervised national IEC audit. Why have the candidates continued to fight? There was almost certainly fraud on both sides as supporters took advantage of Afghanistan’s insecurity and institutional deficits and found varying ways to “rock the vote.” The two rivals for the Afghan presidency – Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah – signed the agreement on August 8 to form the unity government regardless of who emerges as the winner of the contested election. The accord came as US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Afghanistan with both candidates and outgoing President Hamid Karzai aimed at preventing the country from plunging into political chaos and ethnic conflict amid a dispute over electoral fraud. Under the deal, the unity government would be formed regardless of who emerges as the winner. Doesn’t this undermine the election results and the whole idea of conducting elections?There was certainly a great deal of fraud committed, but there were also millions of voters who took risks to cast their ballots and voted in good faith. The audit process has turned these votes into objects of negotiation between the two candidates. After the first round of the election many people argued that the two candidates should make a political deal, instead of contesting a second round that would be expensive, violent and divisive. In the end, however, the issue has come down to deal-making anyway.
Power-sharing governments are rarely agenda-enacting administrations. In the best case, these governments are able to maintain stability and prevent a return to violence, but they are rarely able to enact significant reforms. One of the hopes from the 2014 Afghan election was to have a new, clear, and decisive government able to initiate coherent and necessary reforms that have been neglected under President Karzai. If power-sharing means a division of government spoils among the same elites that have presided over one of the most corrupt governments in the world, then these reforms are unlikely to take place and international support for Afghanistan will decline. Mature democracies depend on the existence of an opposition. This national unity government is the result of a failed election and therefore a democracy that has not matured. There will surely be opposition within the government, but it will not be an accountable opposition or a necessarily visible one.
The tragedy of the situation is that Afghan voters have proved to be more ready for democracy than Afghan elites. This is an immense setback to Afghanistan’s democratic transition. Perhaps it is a necessary price to pay for stability, but it is a price nonetheless. By seeing the current situations it seems that the future of our nation is very gloomy. The current political instability and dissatisfaction among the masses would result in the widespread tension that could ready the ground for terrorists, just as what happened in Iraq. With the rising violence in Iraq, the world has once again forgotten Afghanistan. If Afghanistan is to be abandoned, we should expect nothing less than what is happening in Iraq to also happen in the Afghan nation.