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Tarnished Karzai knows he is indispensable once more

Mark Urban | 15:30 UK time, Monday, 2 November 2009


The leading contenders in Afghanistan's presidential election certainly have shown cunning.

Unfortunately their skills have helped their country little and brought the elections into disrepute.

President Hamid Karzai has been re-elected after his leading challenger, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, pulled out.

Mr Karzai thereby did what the international community asked for - conceding the need for a second round of voting after claims of widespread vote rigging in the first - without having actually to fight it.

Dr Abdullah meanwhile has managed to tarnish his rival's victory by making a hue and cry about voting fraud in the first place.

When sufficient Karzai votes were disallowed to make a second round necessary, and the president had conceded that, Dr Abdullah withdrew.

Abdullah 'tarnished too'

The challenger himself had 300,000 votes disallowed so he was hardly blameless in first round rigging.

What is more few experts think that he would have won, even if the second round had been staged to the best international standards.

So rather than enhancing the sitting president's credibility by losing against him, Dr Abdullah has withdrawn, claiming fair elections were impossible.

Both men have displayed the Afghans' remarkable talent for nihilism.

Many foreign models have been trashed in Afghanistan, but their own governance only ever produced one of the world's poorest, and in recent decades, most war torn countries.

Strategic options

So where now? Mr Karzai has been congratulated on his re-election and the international community must now get along with him.

There will be some ideas about making further aid conditional on his rooting out corruption and getting the government to function better, but it will be very hard to compel him to do so.

Threats of withdrawing foreign forces are not credible - not yet anyway. In fact the logic of the strategic options now being considered suggests committing more troops and aid.

Since the president knows this, he will make the right sort of noises towards the Western powers, and maybe accept a national unity government or some constitutional reform.

But will he really follow through?

The Americans will have to work Mr Karzai hard, but carefully, during the coming weeks in order to get the best looking result they can.

But even if his government is no more than the vehicle for raising much larger security forces in order to make Nato's withdrawal from combat possible, Mr Karzai knows he is indispensible once more.


  • Comment number 1.


    So the Karzi won, in the re-make.

  • Comment number 2.

    talking of the need for elections when was the last one in the west bank? no big hoohaa that there should have been on in january? is it because the 'democracies' think hamas will win so wish to suppress it?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for the blog.

    This whole episode is shameful and our leaders should hang their heads in shame in my view. How many soldiers died so an election could be held? Not only ours but Americans and other countries too.

    We get an election riddled with fraud so we are promised another one. Then as there is only one candidate we declare the man who appeared to be the biggest fraudster the winner. You couldn't make it up.

    As to the international election commission in Afghanistan surely the correct title for them now is the non-election commission...

  • Comment number 4.

    The US wants a National Unity Government in Afghanistan yet opposes such a move in Lebanon after their allies scraped through a parliamentary majority in what is to be known as the most corrupt elections in Lebanon's history.

    The Americans cannot help themselves, they insist on messing up their foriegn policy and sticking it to Lebanon Christians once again meanwhile supporting a completley opposite policy in Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 5.

    If the biggest Afghan cash crop is the opium poppy, and a source of income for the government then maybe the west should look at the whole drug debate in the new light of the 21st century. I was sold the lie that we would have personal flying machines and silver suits by now, not this middle age mess of interaction and political manoeuvring that is all around the world.

    The west could but the crop then burn it up if need be, or sell it and tax it.

    Time for a grown up debate!

  • Comment number 6.

  • Comment number 7.

    Afghans and the international community were faced with a unprecedented event in the second round of election. Now the question is what are the expectations of the Afghan nation and the international community with billions of dollars aid. The past eight years were totally failiure and disapinting . Corruption, drugs, unjustice, lack of good governence and no trust in to the government. Karzi will be able to overcome all these problems or does he have the guts to solve these major bottle necks. Or he will play with his own people and the world governments. He is a very successfull deal maker. He only intends to strengthen his own power base. I suggest the international community must get serious with him and force him to deliver. Reform is the only way to get out of this mess.

  • Comment number 8.

    Afghan election was game which you could cheat but you will not be an afghan government fight curraption which it self come to power by curraption. The west (US,UK,UN)made huge mistike by letting KARZI reelected . This was a great opportunity the west show afghan people that they could bring change without violence.

    Unfortunately the poor afghans ,US,NATO solgers will lose their life supporting an illegitimate government.
    The only way to succeed in Afghanistan to forget about Taliban and start thinking about afghan people.


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