Leading article: An election still dogged by uncertainty and danger

Afghanistan's poll had many defects, but the result is not yet discredited

Share
Related Topics

It scarcely needs to be said that the Afghan elections could have gone a great deal better. There could have been a higher turn-out, especially in the south. There could have been less fraud – less money and fewer ballot papers changing hands. There could have been less violence, before and during the poll. And there could have been a clearer victory for one or other candidate than it appears there will be. A convincing result in the first round would have allowed Afghans to open the next chapter in their chequered history sooner.

But this is not what happened. So the question now is: by how much did Afghanistan's presidential election fall short of what had been hoped for, and will Afghans nonetheless be able to regard the outcome as credible? It is vital that they should, if stability is to return to the country in any plausible shape or form.

Yesterday's official progress report, based on the 10 per cent of votes so far counted, presents a mixed picture, but one that could have been far worse. On the minus side, early returns suggest a closer result than many expected. This means there is a strong possibility that a second round of voting will be needed, with all the uncertainty and risks that will entail. President Hamid Karzai emerges at this early stage with a narrow lead over his closest challenger, the former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah. If the rest of the count bears this out, leaving no candidate with the more than 50 per cent share of the vote, the electoral process is set to drag on into October.

A relatively close result, however, also has a plus side, not least because it suggests that any fraud on the part of any one candidate has not been enough to clinch the outcome. This does not mean that the election was clean – far from it. Five days after the poll, nearly 800 claims of irregularities have been lodged with the Election Complaints Commission, 50 of which are described as serious. It does mean, though, that while the stakes for a second round will be extremely high, voters may be emboldened to turn out in the certainty that their vote will matter. The drawback, of course, is that violence could escalate as the stakes rise.

If, as it is probably wise at this point, we try to look on the bright side, there are other positives. One is the restraint shown so far by Dr Abdullah as the closest challenger. Anticipating yesterday's announcement, he urged Afghans "to be patient and to show responsibility". The threat of a violent stand-off, which remains so long as there is no definitive result and allegations of widespread fraud persist, may thus have been averted in the short term.

Another is the hands-off stance taken by the US leadership and Nato forces, who have treated their task as creating the most favourable conditions possible for an election – at some cost to themselves in terms of lives and funds – not to advance a particular outcome. President Karzai is said to be unhappy with the conspicuous coolness shown to him and his government by the US special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, who is not a man to mince his words. But, with so many questions open, not least the future of the foreign troop presence and the feasibility of bringing stability to Afghanistan at all, this election had to be about the will of Afghans, not about who was backing whom from outside.

The next days and weeks will be a time of tension and danger in Afghanistan, and the Taliban may scent an opportunity in the uncertainty. All involved have a responsibility not to make this fraught situation any worse.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Ed Miliband on low pay; Alan Johnson on Betjeman; Tom Freeman on editing

John Rentoul
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments