Afghan Failed Democratic Process Endanger Stability. By Dr Florance Ebrahimi

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The first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan is facing a crisis, with one of the candidates threatening to reject the result of the by-election ballot count, citing widespread fraud. The second run off saw the major voter tournout. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) estimates that seven million voters cast ballots in the by-election, or 60 percent of the 12 million eligible voters. However, Dr Abdullah claims the actual turnout on June 14 was much lower and that the number was inflated to pave the way for fraud in favor of his rival Dr Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah's team has accused electoral authorities of colluding with Ghani to steal the election, and released audio recordings of phone calls in which officials discuss ballot box stuffing with a very crude code, calling the containers of vote as “Stuffed Sheeps”. Abdullah said the man caught on tape was the chief election officer, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, and demanded his resignation or removal as a condition of returning to the formal election process. Amarkhil stepped down the day after the recordings were made public, but said they had been faked and he was only giving up his job for the sake of national unity. Abdullah’s camp has accused Karzai, provincial governors and police of complicity in efforts to rig the election.
The election controversy, which has already prompted street demonstrations by supporters of Mr. Abdullah, has alarmed the international community. Afghanistan's Western partners are concerned that the dispute could turn violent and potentially plunge the country back into civil war. In particular complained about voting in southeastern Afghanistan, where some provinces saw voter turnout double or triple from the first round. Mr. Abdullah said the runoff figure was far too high to be genuine, and that ballot stuffing in largely pro-Ghani areas was partly to blame. These allegations certainly raised suspisition. Dr Abdullah protest was the biggest since the fraud dispute erupted and the first Abdullah had attended, sending a public signal that could fuel further demonstrations and increase the risk of civil unrest. A smooth Afghan election is seen as crucial by nations that have fought the insurgents since 2001 and donated billions in aid, in the hope of fostering a functioning state to replace the harsh Islamist rule of the Taliban. The first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan is facing a crisis, with one of the candidates threatening to reject the result of the by-election ballot count, citing widespread fraud. The impasse has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Abdullah's base of support is with the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, while Ghani is Pashtun, the largest group. Afghan politics rarely reward gracious losers and public demonstrations, along with the use of violence, are well-worn negotiating tactics.
On the other hand, many Afghans are desperately waiting for the election process to end so that normal life can resume in their war-torn country. The winner is supposed to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, and a smooth transition of power is crucial for the continuation of Western aid that props up the Afghan economy and security forces. The election controversy, which has already prompted street demonstrations by supporters of Mr. Abdullah, has alarmed the international community. Afghanistan's Western partners are concerned that the dispute could turn violent and potentially plunge the country back into civil war. Most Afghans are desperate for change, in the form of a strong and inclusive leader who is capable of seeing the country through uncertain times. However, if the election's result lacks legitimacy, greater instability and fragmentation is almost guaranteed.
Whoever emerges as the victor will be leading a country on the precipice. The situation will be made ever more difficult by an electoral mess, and a failed process could result in rapidly diminished donor support. The economic impact of the troop drawdown has already weakened the economy, with GDP growth dropping from 14.4 percent in 2012 to 3.6 percent in 2013. With nearly 95 percent of Afghanistan's GDP dependent on international aid, any donor funding cuts will spell disaster. In the worst-case scenario, government revenues will dry up and the incoming president won't even be able to pay the salaries of government employees or security forces. The warlords, who have been co-opted into the political system, have been motivated to participate by massive aid budgets, military contracts, and other funding sources that line their pockets. As the aid money dries up, they will have far less incentive to play by the rules. The real worry is that Afghanistan will fall even deeper into conflict, and be forgotten once again by the rest of the world. However there is still much the international community can do to avert the worst-case scenario. Right now, that means seeing the elections through to ensure a legitimate and accepted outcome.
(Author is a Doctor and currently practices in Sydney, Australia. She belongs from Kabul Afghanistan can be contacted at: drfloafghan@gmail.com)

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