Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Karzai Agrees to a Runoff

On August 20, 2009, Afghans went to the polls for their country's second election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Soon after the election was held, accusations of fraud emerged which contested the validity of the election's results which had shown commanding lead for incumbent President Hamid Karzai. Forms of fraud included illegitimate voter cards, bribes, armed coercion, and the closure of many polling stations due to violence threats. One UN official declared that as many as one in five votes for Karzai may have been illegal. In addition, fear held many voters away from the polls as only an estimated 30% per cent of the public participated in the elections.

These figures prompted Abdullah Abdullah to challenge the election results. Since that time the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission has investigated the claims of fraud and miscalculation. The investigation led to the belief that support for Karzai had fallen below 50%, a mark which if not met requires a run-off election. After relentless pressure from Western politicians to accept the ECC's findings, Karzai has agreed to a run-off election set to take place on November 7, 2009.

Karzai has said before that this Western pressure actually has negative effects for his country. As early as September 7, Karzai argued in a French magazine, Le Figaro, that the US was attacking him to make him more tractable. He followed by saying, "It is in no one's interest to have an Afghan president who has become an American puppet."

Despite the possibility of giving the appearance of Karzai as a Western puppet, the US has continued to apply pressure to Karzai to agree to a run-off election. The reason US officials continued to pressure Karzai to accept a run-off is because they need his government to be perceived as legitimate and accepted by the Afghan people. If it is not perceived as legitimate, the US fears that there will not be public support for the government. Our efforts to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda rely on public support for our troops. The Afghan people and its government must be united, otherwise, the US will end up fighting for a government that it not wanted by its people, and the people may end up resisting the government and US troops.

Therefore, Karzai's acceptance for a run-off election is a major step in the right direction for the US war efforts in Afghanistan. On November 7th, the world will witness the emergence of a legitimate leader of Afghanistan. Let's hope that the run-off elections will have a less controversial outcome.

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