With Clock Still Ticking, Afghanistan No Closer to Resolving Election Crisis

Reuters reminds us this morning that under one previous set of plans, today was to have been inauguration day for Afghanistan’s new president. Karzai is now insisting that the candidates must work out the vote audit and their power sharing agreement very quickly because he intends to stand by September 2 as the definite inauguration day. But that doesn’t look like a realistic deadline, either, according to Reuters:

But officials from the rival camps, as well as from the election commission, doubt that the Sept. 2 date would be met.

“Honestly, I cannot come out with something definite on that, but I hope. It’s Afghanistan. Things are unpredictable,” said Abdullah’s spokesman, Mujib Rahman Rahimi.

An official for Ghani’s campaign, who declined to be identified, said little progress had been made in interpreting the framework for a power-sharing deal.

“Nothing yet has added to the political framework and the commission couldn’t reach an agreement in most of the areas,” the official said, adding that the candidates were meeting to try to break the deadlock.

Many Western diplomats also say the process is unlikely to be resolved in time.

“I don’t see how there will be any space for compromise, because the pie is too small and there are too many people who want a piece,” said one Western official.

BBC chimes in with a report today that the small pie is getting even smaller:

Afghanistan’s finance minister has said deadlock over the disputed presidential election has cost the economy $5bn.

Omar Zakhilwal told the BBC he would have to cut salaries and lay off government workers if the crisis was not resolved by the end of the month.

Foreign investment is at a standstill and government revenues have fallen sharply since the April vote.

Khaama Press adds that in addition to the $5 billion in lost revenues, Afghanistan also has seen around $6 billion in capital flight due to the election dispute.

The final process of invalidating votes is apparently underway this afternoon in Kabul, but as Carlotta Gall noted Saturday in the New York Times, the math of the audit is daunting:

The huge scale of the fraud — involving perhaps more than two million ballots out of roughly eight million reported cast, according to independent international estimates — has stymied efforts to achieve a democratic transition. Secretary of State John Kerry has intervened twice to keep the campaigns in agreement on a unity government and a complete audit of the vote, but the process has repeatedly broken down in disputes.


Mr. Abdullah was the clear leader in the first round, with a 900,000-vote margin over Mr. Ghani. But the preliminary results of the runoff showed a gigantic improvement for Mr. Ghani — an “impossible” one, according to one Western official — of 1.9 million votes.

Hmm, some dirty hippie had come up with very similar math on the dramatic change in vote numbers–back on July 8.

Oh, and even if by some miracle, a new “final” vote tally does appear before September 2, don’t look for an agreement on the structure of the power sharing government any time soon.

With the NATO summit still planned for September 4, that looms as the real deadline for the West to decide if the zero option on troop deployment after the end of this year becomes the only option.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

4 replies
  1. Garrett says:

    When Matt Rosenberg reported that some vague unspecified collection of officials was plotting to seize power if the election dispute dragged on, it was really aggravating. Reporting on people plotting a coup should certainly say who is plotting the coup. A reader might like to know that part of the story. Conventions about how journalism works, at places like the Times, prevents that, though. You’ve got to accept stuff like, unnamed sources say that unspecified people are plotting to take over the government, if you want to read them.

    I don’t see any justification for this, though:

    Two Western analysts independently studying the numbers gave even higher estimates: as many as 2.2 million fraudulent ballots favoring Mr. Ghani and 800,000 favoring Mr. Abdullah.

    Anonymous analysts have used unspecified methodology on unspecified data to arrive at specific conclusions about vote fraud? Come on. Who are they? What methods did they use? What data did they look at? Secret analysis of vote fraud is just plain weird.

    • Jim White says:

      Normally, yes, the Times’ propensity to grant anonymity detracts from their stories greatly. But in this case, I have to say that I understand. Someone identified by name as planning a coup would certainly get a quick trip to a prison cell once the story is published.

      And on the 2.2 million number. That pretty much coincides with the swing in votes for Ghani over Abdullah. Abdullah won the first round by about a million votes and Ghani won the preliminary count of the runoff by about a million. It’s pretty easy to surmise that somehow Ghani got an extra two million or so in the runoff that might not have had much to do with voters.

  2. bevin says:

    ” Someone identified by name as planning a coup would certainly get a quick trip to a prison cell..” if he was very lucky that is.

    “Abdullah won the first round by about a million votes and Ghani won the preliminary count of the runoff by about a million. It’s pretty easy to surmise that somehow Ghani got an extra two million or so in the runoff that might not have had much to do with voters.”

    Of course the same might be said about a million or so of Abdullah’s first round votes.

    Isn’t there a third candidate, who didn’t qualify for the run off, who can now be inserted and given the job?
    There was in Haiti.

  3. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    And from RT. http://rt.com/news/line/2014-08-26/#69224
    “Afghan presidential candidate may pull out of election audit

    Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened on Tuesday to withdraw from an audit of votes cast in the election, AFP said. With the audit entering its final stages, Abdullah’s campaign team ignored pleas from the UN and the US to allow the process to be completed. “If they accept our demands by tomorrow morning we will continue the process. If not, we will withdraw from the process and consider it finished,” said Abdullah aide Fazel Ahmad Manawi, adding that Abdullah’s demands over how fraudulent votes should be thrown out had been ignored. The candidate’s withdrawal from the audit process could wreck UN efforts to rescue the country’s first democratic transfer of power. “

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