Based on final projections, the statistics and polling team here at Ghosts of Alexander has decided to call the 2009 Afghan Presidential elections….. we declare Hamid Karzai re-elected as President of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan! Congratulations!
He has defeated his rivals in the first round and garnered over 50% of the vote, thereby avoiding a run-off. The nearest challengers include a goat, a shovel, and a bag of rocks:
So how could the man so widely criticized and rumored to be on the way out just a couple of months ago come back like this? Way back on May 3, 2009 Reuters reported:
After months of berating Karzai’s government as ineffectual and tolerant of corruption, U.S. officials have stopped chiding the man Washington helped install in power in 2001. Karzai, for his part, has toned down what had been increasingly angry complaints about U.S. troops killing Afghan civilians. Officials in both countries say the thaw represents a more realistic assessment in Washington of the challenges Karzai faces and a recognition that berating each other was doing neither side any good as they face a worsening Taliban insurgency together. “(It’s) an acknowledgment that you can’t kick this guy too much because then you weaken him to the point where he is not going to have any legitimacy at all,” said a senior U.S. official in Washington on condition he not be identified.
The unnamed senior U.S. official (whose is probably also an unpaid assistant deputy intern for coffee-fetching at CNAS) basically said that both sides realized that they were stuck with each other…for better or for worse.
And just the day before, WaPo reported:
With less than a week left before candidates must register for Afghanistan’s presidential election, opposition forces remain so divided and appear so confused that the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, is looking more and more like a winner as he heads to Washington for a summit with President Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari…
What happened to all those would-be candidates? WaPo continues:
Although more than 60 people have formally expressed interest in the August presidential race, not a single candidate has registered with the Independent Election Commission.
Instead, an array of political strongmen and presidential hopefuls has spent the past week in backroom negotiations with onetime adversaries, either making last-minute attempts to form winning opposition tickets or bartering their presumed vote-getting influence for posts in a future Karzai administration.
Afghanistan hasn’t been this predictable since the last time I failed to predict something predictable like this.
And the Eye in the East grows stronger every….
“We tried to put together a team with a national agenda, but so far we have failed. As a result, Karzai is growing stronger by the hour,” said Ali Jalali, a former interior minister and one of the still-undecided candidates.
The other losers/drop-outs/undecideds include Zalmay Kalilzad, Ashraf Ghani, Gul Agha Sherzai, and some other guys (no recent updates from Abdullah²). How about the tough-guys not running?
Some of the most powerful figures in the country’s political equation are not presidential candidates but strongmen from ethnic and regional groups. Political observers said these men have been jostling behind the scenes for influence as vote-delivering kingmakers in return for quotas of power in a future administration. They include ethnic Uzbek militia leader Abdurrashid Dostum, Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, and former defense minister Mohammed Fahim, who is Tajik.
And if you don’t want to wake up with your favorite horse’s head in your bed, you pick Fahim as your running mate:
It has been widely reported that Karzai plans to choose Fahim as his top running mate, a prospect that has alarmed and dismayed many Afghans hoping for political change. Fahim, a former anti-Soviet militia boss, resisted Western-backed military reforms as Karzai’s defense minister and has been suspected of illegal business dealings.
“People are shocked that Fahim would be on the ticket,” said Nader Nadery, an official with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “All this intense negotiation going on is not about issues or ideas. It is only about people seeking power and about Karzai getting reelected.”
Back to the present: the other candidates who ran in the election have kindly asked the local “get-out-the-vote” committees for their children to be returned. Just kidding, the candidates will be fine. It’s the voters I’m worried about. The worst part last time around was the pressuring tactics. One example would be the guy who threatened to destroy the house of any person who didn’t vote for Karzai in “his area.”
In other news, I have a block of 400 women’s voting cards. The bidding starts later today on Ebay. So who will be the winners in stuffing the ballot boxes with fictional women this time around? According to a quickie report sent out over Barnett Rubin’s listserv Logar has registered 72% of the voters as women. Nuristan? 71%.
In 2004, the BBC reported:
There are constant reports of individuals brandishing two or more voting cards, usually announcing they have acquired extra ones as an investment. The more optimistic hope to make $100 or more per card by selling them – serious money in a country where most people earn less than that per month.
One tale – unconfirmed – even has a woman claiming to have gained 40 voting cards by turning up repeatedly for registration with her identity concealed under an all-enveloping burqa.
In the mujahideen-dominated Panjshir Valley, the number of cards issued is two and a half times the estimated number of voters.
I’m sure it will be just as bad this time around. More on this issue at AlertNet.
So, you heard it here 17th: Hamid Karzai will be re-elected.
Update: Karzai has officially registered and named Fahim plus Karim Khalili as his running mates.