Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just before leaving Afghanistan

It has been a couple of days since the elections. While life in Kabul appears to be returning back to normal, the wide-spread reports of election fraud by colleagues and friends who were stationed outside of Kabul as election observers makes it increasingly clear that Afghanistan had two elections on August 20th, 2009.
One was the one that many international observers like myself witnessed in Kabul: calm, procedures were followed, and there were no visible signs of major fraud. Then there was much of the rest of the country, especially the insecure areas of southern Afghanistan. In these areas I've heard reports of stuffed ballot boxes early in the morning when observers showed up, political pressures exerted by government officials to favor President Karzai, and no sign of the mandated tally sheet posted on polling center doors. It is likely that the most egregious fraud happened in areas where observers could not go due to security concerns. In some of these areas, such as in Kandahar, I hear from reliable sources that at most 5% of the population voted. And yet vote tallies are likely to show much higher turnout.
More and more evidence coming in of whole-sale fraud having taken place in many parts of the country. Also reports that the head of the UN in Kabul and other western officials are trying to negotiate a "National Unity" government as a face-saving way out. The problem is that this kind of solution is likely to worsen the legitimacy of the next Afghan administration.

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