October 19, 2009
‘We will not risk our lives to vote again’
Voting is a risky business in Afghanistan. During the period when Afghanis cast their ballots more than two months ago the Taliban launched grenade attacks at polling places. They also punished voters who sported the ink-stained finger that is proof of voting in Afghanistan by amputating that finger.
This Taliban campaign was so effective that turnout was a below 40 percent nationally and as low as five percent in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
So it is no wonder that some Afghanis may be having second thoughts about further participation in the electoral process. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ijs1fXELKgCTxaMD8Ix_DNyrNiWQ
“If there is a second round we will not participate,” Sadruddin Khan, a tribal elder in Kandahar told AFP.
“It is not worth it to us to once again face the possibility of having our fingers and heads chopped off, and our police and soldiers die. Neither Karzai nor Abdullah are worth the lives of our children.”
Especially now when the results still have not been certified amid accusations that massive fraud was committed by Hamid Karzai’s supporters. Nasrat Shoaib summarizes the situation on the ground in Kandahar. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ijs1fXELKgCTxaMD8Ix_DNyrNiWQ
Fraud, the time taken to declare a winner and the government’s inability to provide security have demoralised Pashtun tribal leaders in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand who form the backbone of Karzai’s support.
Afghans voted nearly two months ago but no result has yet been declared.
Now the latest development in this unfolding chaos is the decision by the U.N. Electoral Complaint Commission to toss hundreds of thousands of ballots from the official count. This means that Karzai’s percentage has dropped from 55% to below the 50% threshhold needed to avoid a runoff.
A runoff election or a negotiated power-sharing agreement between Karzai and his closest rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, are two possible ways of resolving the electoral crisis.
Either choice will be met with a shrug of indifference by many Afghanis who have lost all desire to participate any further in the travesty.
Khonchazai, an elder in Helmand, said: “Afghan people will not take the same risks again, especially in light of the fraud which proves that their genuine votes were not respected or given any value.”
Another Helmand elder, Assadullah, said that in Nad Ali district, 1,800 people voted but the official figures showed many thousands more had turned out.
“This is a clear proof of fraud,” he said.
“A second round will serve neither the country nor the people, will not make the people any more confident in the election process and will further weaken the Afghan government.”
Abdul Satar, 55, an elder in Zabul province, said: “If I have to vote a second time, what does that say about the value of my vote the first time?”
If this indeed reflects the consensus among the Afghan people, then there will be no legitimacy to whatever government is patched together with chewing gum and bailing wire. Any runoff will have even lower turnout than the original election — and any claim that Karzai had to be the elected leader of Afghanistan will now be seen to be a sham.
With widespread question marks over the next administration’s legitimacy, Hafizullah Khan, 60, an elder from Kandahar, said “any curiosity we had before about who our new president will be is now dead in our hearts.
“No matter who they announce now it makes no difference to us. All we have learned from this election is that there will always be fraud in elections, and whoever is in power will commit fraud.”
The next Afghan election (if there is one) might well fit the nightmare scenario of “Suppose they had an election and nobody came.” At a basic level that is the greatest risk of all.
Note: An interesting analysis of the possible policy implications on the Obama administration resulting from the electoral turmoil in Afghanistant can be found at: http://news.firedoglake.com/2009/10/19/un-invalidates-hundreds-of-thousands-of-votes-in-afghanistan-strips-karzai-of-victory/