Endless wait: on Afghanistan Presidential election

The announcement of preliminary results for the Afghanistan Presidential election is a significant step for India’s war-torn neighbour. The fourth Presidential poll since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, it consolidates the country’s democratic process in the face of odds, including continuing violence and terrorism there. According to the Independent Election Commission, President Ashraf Ghani has won 50.64% of the votes counted, which, if ratified, will obviate the need for a second round of polling. A second round — probably only after winter — would prolong the uncertainty around the polls, given that even these results took more than three months to announce. That these polls were held was a miracle, having been delayed for months, and almost cancelled after progress in reconciliation talks with Taliban leaders, who do not recognise the electoral process. The U.S.’s decision to cancel the talks in September — now resumed — gave the necessary breather for the September 28 polls and counting to be carried out. But questions remain. Voter turnout was a record low, with only about a quarter of 9.6 million registered voters voting. Thousands of votes were also disqualified after biometric match failures and other irregularities, setting off allegations of voter fraud. As a result, Afghanistan’s former Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Ghani’s chief rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, has rejected the preliminary results. Mr. Ghani’s vote margin over Mr. Abdullah is only about 214,769, and if more votes are disqualified during the review process, the men may have to fight the second round. This will possibly be more divisive for Afghanistan given that Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun leader, has drawn much of his support from the Pashtun-majority south and Mr. Abdullah has won mainly in the Northern areas with Tajik presence. The U.S.-Taliban talks also cast a shadow over whether the results will be respected if the Taliban negotiates its way into a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Setting aside the concerns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Mr. Ghani for winning the elections, a gesture which will be noted by Mr. Ghani and Vice President-elect Amrullah Saleh. Mr. Modi reaffirmed India’s close and strategic partnership with Afghanistan since 2010. The move came in sharp contrast to the rest of world that has chosen to be more cautious at present; the U.S. Ambassador has reminded all that “many steps remain” before the final results are certified and declared, and the UN has called for all candidates to “safeguard and complete the election”. It will be in everyone’s interests, particularly the Afghans who braved violent attacks to go out and vote, if the remaining steps of the electoral process are completed at the earliest, and democracy is reaffirmed in Afghanistan.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 2:53:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/endless-wait/article30405323.ece

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