It is a commentary on the fragility of politics in Afghanistan that it took three months for its Independent Election Commission (IEC) to declare the result of September’s presidential elections. The poll has once again plunged the country in political crisis and in the wake of allegations of fraud. By all indications on Sunday, the incumbent President, Ashraf Ghani, will step into the presidential palace in Kabul yet again.
The margin of victory ~ 50.6 per cent ~ is slender, but enough, as it turns out, to tilt the scales in favour of Ghani in what has repeatedly turned out to be a fraudulent tryst with a spurious democracy. Once again, the credibility of the regime is at stake in the perception of the comity of nations. Ghani has defeated his main challenger, the chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with him in what they call a “unity government”.
The belated declaration of results has not lessened the tension. In the immediate aftermath, Abdullah has refused to accept the result, alleging that the Independent Election Commission had failed to tackle election fraud. A very different note was struck by Ghani who has welcomed the result and said the country was on course towards prosperity and development. “With the announcement, we are moving now from darkness to light and from uncertainty to a bright future,” he told a jubilant crowd gathered at the presidential palace in Kabul.
This arguably is an indirect admission of the relentless uncertainty in Afghanistan. That uncertainty would seem to linger. The head of the IEC, Hawa Alam Nuristani, has hinted that the result is subject to a review by the election complaints commission. If a review showed Ghani’s vote falling below 50 per cent and no other candidate with a majority, a second round of voting would be held. Improbability is inherent in governance. And it has been pretty obvious over the years that despite having a President, Afghanistan will be mired in uncertainty for a long while yet.
Small wonder that the US, Afghanistan’s biggest donor, has reacted cautiously to the result. “It is important for Afghans to remember that many steps remain before final election results are certified, to ensure the Afghan people have confidence in the results,” John Bass, the ambassador to Afghanistan, said in a post on Twitter. The fundamental reason must be the fraudulence, almost institutionalised. In a sense, Abdullah has been able to influence the State department.
“The result that stands is based on fraud and without considering our legitimate demands, will never be accepted,” Abdullah’s office said in statement on Sunday. The situation echoes 2014, when both Ghani and Abdullah alleged massive fraud by the other, forcing the US to broker an awkward power-sharing arrangement that made Ghani the President and Abdullah his chief executive. This time, the incumbent is not agreeable to yet another power-sharing arrangement. Pray why? The result itself is not agreeable.