Friday, September 23, 2005


Elections in Afghanistan

There is an article by Declan Walsh in the Guardian on the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan last weekend. Turnout numbers released yesterday indicated that turnout was low (36% in Kabul, the capital, and about 53% nationally) and down from around 70% turnout for the Afghani presidential elections. Walsh indicates that whatever the explanation for the low turnout (and there are several, ranging from threat of violence to the simple fact that one might expect better turnout for a presidential election than a parliamentary one), it could spell bad news for the future of Afghanistan.
But there are also greatly worrying reasons why Mr Karzai should be concerned about the fall in turnout. After just one year of democratic rule, there are signs of rapidly swelling disenchantment.

In a country awash with weapons, corrupted by drug money and threatened by a resurgent Taliban, this is a dangerous development.

The inclusion of dozens of warlords and militia commanders on the ticket disgusted voters who thought Mr Karzai and his US allies had come to usher the gunmen out of the door, not hand them the keys to the house.

The crawling pace of reconstruction is also brewing trouble. After making a string of heroic promises in late 2001, the west is letting Afghanistan down. Only around $10bn (£5.5bn) has so far been spent on reconstruction, according to most estimates.
Furthermore, even successful elections do not necessarily result in smooth governance (as one can see in Iraq also).
The provisional election results are due on October 3. Analysts are predicting mayhem in the early months of parliament, particularly because of the lack of political parties. Nobody is quite sure how Mr Karzai will build alliances, pass new laws or run the country.
We'll see. Karzai is also trying to maneuver the path or the role of the U.S. occupying forces in the country, surely something that is going to effect his relations with differing parliamentary factions. Meanwhile, there is an article in the Washington Post about Iran having the world's highest rate of addiction to opium. And, gee, whaddayaknow, it's right next to Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium. So there's no doubt that the U.S. is not the only country with interest in what goes on in Afghanistan (of course).

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