The first round of Afghanistan’s election this month delivered a resounding, three-part defeat to the Taliban… Two front-runners have emerged, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who are moderate, pro-Western and committed to the fight against extremism…
Abdullah finished second to Karzai in a 2009 election that was tainted by low turnout and massive ballot-box stuffing by Karzai’s allies. This election not only produced a 50 percent higher turnout, but also a much more credible vote in the Kandahar region, the homeland of the Taliban and Karzai’s Pashtun ethnic group. Voting was heavy in the Kandahar area, and only 205 of 6,423 polling centres across the country failed to open.
The Afghan candidates, election officials and security forces must still run a gauntlet of challenges to complete a successful election. The vote count is due to be completed by April 24, and the elections complaint commission has pledged to investigate every fraud report.
A second round would be held by May 28; that would provide the Taliban with another opportunity to attack. The Post’s Joshua Partlow reports that U.S. and other Western officials are hoping that a runoff might be avoided through a deal between the front-runners. Such a bargain could speed the day when a new president could sign a pending security agreement with the United States — the key to leaving some U.S. forces in the country after 2014, and thus to preserving the state built since 2002. But Abdullah and Ghani are so far saying they don’t want such a deal, and they shouldn’t be pushed. Afghanistan needs a new president broadly accepted as legitimate.
From a leader in ‘The Washington Post’