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Friday, December 03, 2021

Uncertain still

Recently declared results of Afghan elections are not the last word. There is more to come

By: Editorial |
Updated: December 28, 2019 2:32:47 pm
protests poetry, ram prasad bismil, caa, caa protests, citizenship act, indian express, indian express With the votes divided on ethnic lines — the Pashtun south seems to have voted with Ghani and the non-Pashtun north with Abdullah — the stability of any new government will need the co-operation of all political actors,

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted congratulations to President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan for his election victory, but the Ministry of External Affairs has rightly been more cautious. The recently declared results of the September 28 Afghan elections are only preliminary, and there is a long way yet to go for the final results. Ghani has polled over 50 per cent of the 1.86 million votes counted, but has crossed the half-way mark by an extremely thin margin of some 11,600 votes. The results have been contested by his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah, who polled 39.5 per cent of the votes and has questioned the validity of the counting. He wants 3,00,000 votes invalidated for various irregularities, including that at least a third of them seem to have been cast after voting hours. Protests by his supporters stalled the counting for days, one of the reasons for the delay in announcing this tentative result. The Independent Election Complaints Commission will look into all the complaints, and it could be another month by the time final results are declared. If it takes on board Abdullah’s demand for invalidating a substantial number of votes, a second round run-off between the two top candidates is not ruled out.

With the votes divided on ethnic lines — the Pashtun south seems to have voted with Ghani and the non-Pashtun north with Abdullah — the stability of any new government will need the co-operation of all political actors, especially as they all have to deal eventually with a force that has been inimical to the election process and the idea of a democratic Afghanistan. Even as it engaged in talks with the US for the withdrawal of American troops, the Taliban carried out violent attacks in the run-up to the election. The fear of bombings and violence on election day had an impact on the turn-out, the lowest for any election, post 9/11, and in many areas under Taliban control, polling stations could not open. The recently resumed US peace talks with the Taliban, after they were called off abruptly by President Donald Trump just ahead of the election, bring more uncertainty into the mix.

The challenge for the new government would be to demand to become part of this process and not be kept out humiliatingly as the previous one was. But with weeks to go, if not months, before the tortuously slow election process comes up with the final results, it would be no surprise either if the US announces that it has reached an agreement with the Taliban — the two sides were close at the time of Trump’s cancellation — even before a government has taken office in Kabul. At this point, it is difficult to be optimistic about Afghanistan.

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