Foreign Policy Blogs

Election Back On!

Just weeks after the Afghan Election Commission, United Nations, and the US government stated that they believe it best to delay the presidential elections until August, President Karzai issued a decree on Saturday ordering that all elections be held in accordance with the Constitution, that is, this April or May.

karThe main reasons given the delay were mainly security related, but their were also concerns that voting structures, such as ballot locations and registration numbers, were not up to standard, and this does not appear any different today. An anonymous US military official said he was confident that US/NATO/Afghan forces could provide the necessary security. However, the US State Department cautioned against the move by Karzai: State Spokesman Robert Wood stated that the department “reiterates its view that elections in August, as proposed by the Independent Elections Commission, is the best means to assure every Afghan citizen would be able to express his or her political preference in a secure environment.”

It appears that Karzai was getting worried about the calls for an interim government during the time when the Constitution called for an election, May/April, and the time of the postponed election, August. If an interim government did take power it would take away some of the state power strings that Karzai could utilize for his campaign. The main opposition party, The National Front, voiced its approval of this move and stated that it would nominate a candidate shortly, most likely Abdullah or Vice President Ahmed Zia Masood.

Though Karzai’s popularity ratings are poor, around 20%, he has to be considered the favorite in what is now a short electoral season. This is an important election for more reasons than just the picking of a new national leader as immature democracies are commonly challenged by early elections and the legitimacy in which they are seen. It will be crucial for as many Afghan civilians, from as many regions as possible, especially in the south, to be registered and to participate. There is the fear that not enough citizens will be able to vote safely in this election and this would undermine the elected government.  This would be especially true if the Taliban could keep a whole region or group of citizens from participating.