The people of Afghanistan will cast their ballots today. It’ll be the third elections since the fall of Taliban in 2001 but the first democratic transition, if the process goes peacefully and successfully.
So far three strong presidential candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Zalmai Rasoul have emerged on the political arena to replace the incumbent president Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred to get further extension after ruling more than 12 years in Afghanistan.
For the past few weeks all presidential candidates especially the prominent three took to the street, travelled nearly all over Afghanistan and tried their best to win the hearts of the masses. Today is the most important day for the people of Afghanistan who will not only decide the future of Afghanistan but also the whole region. Therefore, all eyes are on Afghanistan’s elections. All presidential candidates claim to be the next president of Afghanistan but unfortunately nobody knows who will win the simple majority vote.
Will the elections be free, fair and transparent? The past two examples say no. A survey recently conducted by the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan claims that only a quarter of Afghans expect the vote to be clean. And holding fair, free and transparent elections will be a great challenge for the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan.
Overall the election campaigns have been peaceful except ten lives plus three journalists took by Taliban just before elections because the ongoing election campaigns were causing panic in the south, the dominating Pashto speaking who has been ruling Afghanistan for the last one century, now seem hesitant to accept the imminent political change coming from the north of Afghanistan.
Presumably, Pashtun hardliners must be pushing Karzai and his establishment hard to get him replaced by a Pashto speaking to prolong the Pashtun ruling legacy in Afghanistan. While non-Pashto speakers on other hand are trying their best to get elected by the simple majority.
Under such pressure, Karzai termed Taliban “brother” and released hundreds of them from the jail to build trust with them and requested the south of Afghanistan to fully take part in the elections to stop the north coming into power.
No doubt, Dr. Abdullah will bring changes to Afghanistan’s internal and external policies, if he gets elected as President of Afghanistan and Karzai’s pro-Taliban policy will come to an end. But will Karzai easily allow Abdullah to be the next president of Afghanistan? Will he remain impartial in the elections to see non-Pashtun to be an elected president of Afghanistan? Or will he allow him to take strong actions against Taliban?
Media reports suggest that no presidential candidate would get a simple majority vote in the first round of the elections but some analysts believe that Karzai would bring all their available recourses together to pave a way for a Pashtun candidate to get the majority vote particularly from south to prolong his policies and Pashtun ruling legacy in Afghanistan. If the first option didn’t work, then all possible efforts would be made to help form a fragile coalition government to counter Dr. Abdullah’s policies by getting Pashtun representatives on important government positions.
Once the coalition government is formed, Taliban will likely surge attacks to blackmail or weaken the fragile coalition government. And Karzai while sitting outside would prove the world that no one can rule Afghanistan without Pashtuns.
If due to some reasons, Dr. Abdullah doesn’t get the highest votes, will he accept the election results? If he does under what conditions? Will the international and regional powers accept the elections? Perhaps the next few days will find the best answer.
If however, Dr. Abdullah doesn’t accept the election? What will happen to the future stability of Afghanistan? What if political destabilization goes beyond Afghanistan? Where it will end? What role the international and regional powers would play? The next few days will find the correct answer.
Due to political instability and mistrust in Afghanistan, now nobody knows what elections will bring to Afghan people and the region, either peace or instability? We can only hope and pray for the best future of Afghanistan and the region.
The article was originally published on The Daily Outlook Afghanistan newspaper on 5th of April 2014.