Afghan Election and the Final Showdown

Ajmal Shams

Gulf News (12-Sep-2014)

What seemed like a normal democratic exercise, initiated almost a year ago, the presidential election in Afghanistan seems to have reached a critical juncture. The preliminary results declared Dr. Ashraf Ghani as the leading candidate in the run-off election on 07 July 2014. Yet, the results were challenged by rival Dr. Abdullah with allegations of fraud. The situation reached a climax when Abdullah and his team gathered in Grand Assembly Hall on July 08 2014. Before Abdullah was in, his die-hard and emotionally charged supporters had already tore down the incumbent President Karzai’s portrait and installed Abdullah’s portrait instead. Abdullah condemned his rival team, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) as well as President Karzai as unholy alliance of the three that he accused of preventing his so-called victory. He just stopped short of declaring a parallel government.  

At this stage, all national state institutions had failed to take control of the situation and crisis was intensifying by the day. It was here that one realized how fragile the Afghan state was. The journey of democracy that began almost thirteen years ago had to be restarted from a scratch. If it was not for the timely mediation of the US and the UN, the crisis would have pushed the country to the edge. If on one hand, the US and UN negotiated deal gave a sigh of relief to desperate voters, it also revealed the inherent flaws in the democratic system and the rifts in Afghan society. The deal made the rival teams committed to hundred percent audit of ballots, a national unity government and acceptance of election results by both rivals.

US secretary of state John Kerry had to come to Kabul twice to mediate between rivals Ghani and Abdullah followed by a recent visit by assistant secretary of state as part of the mediation efforts to help move the challenging process ahead. The deal also includes creation of a chief executive position through presidential decree that will be given to loser of the election. It might seem like an anomaly in a democratic transfer of power, the formula of both the winner and loser forming a joint government is being tested in Afghanistan.

Ever since the deal has been signed, several meetings have taken place between the rival teams to agree on the political framework. These include one-to-one meetings between Ghani and Abdullah. Although agreements are said to have been made on several matters, some of the daunting issues must be addressed as both teams come up with their own interpretations of the negotiated agreement. While Abdullah and his team looks at the deal as more of a power sharing arrangement, Dr. Ghani defines it in terms of national integration that joins the two rival teams to work towards a common goal of nation-building through well-defined criteria of competence and inclusion.

The most controversial issue between the two candidates is the level of authority for the proposed chief executive post. As if aware of his probable loss, Abdullah has been pressing for more powers for the chief executive position in which he seems to be personally interested. He has also been asking for fifty percent share in the government. The latest demand by Abdullah to have the proposed Chief Executive lead the cabinet must be a test of nerves for Ghani. In a presidential form of government, the president is both head of the government and head of the state. Agreeing to this demand will transform the entire character of the Afghanistan governance structure not to speak of the move as being unconstitutional per se.

As per the latest reports from IEC, hundred percent recounting and audit of ballots has been completed and complaints are being investigated. Technically speaking, the electoral process has been completed and final results must be announced. Yet, unless agreement has been reached on the political framework for the upcoming government, fears of uprising by rival Abdullah due to Ghani’s almost certain victory has barred the IEC from announcing the results so far.


In a latest development on 8 September 2014, Abdullah announced he will not accept election results as his demand were not met by the rival team in a last minute negotiating effort. There are also rumors of military coup and interim administration if the current impasse continues and eventually evolves into a crisis. However, such rumors seem baseless as they are neither technically nor politically feasible under the prevailing circumstances. Both Afghans and the international community want the power to be transferred to an elected legitimate government, one that will come up to the aspirations of Afghans and be committed to its international obligations.  

History will not forgive the political leadership in Afghanistan if they continue to keep their personal ambitions above the supreme national interests and the ball, surely, is in Abdullah and his team’s court.

(Courtesy: Gulf News - 12-Sep-2014)

The writer is President of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party better known as Afghan Millat National Progressive Party and is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. He served as Policy Advisor to President Dr. Ashraf Ghani when he chaired the security transition commission. He mainly writes on political and developmental issues. He has published in the News International, the Gulf News, the Asia times, South Asia Magazine and several other national and international journals.

انځورونه خبرونه او غونډې مونږ سره اړیکې د ګوند اخبار دګوند تاریخچه زمونږ دریځ لیکنې دا فغان ملت نومیالي دګوند مشر

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