Tag Archives: hamid karzai

Ghani wins Afghan presidency, agrees to dubious power-sharing agreement


Afghanistan’s election recount is over, but no one knows anything about the extent of the vote totals.afghanistan flag

That’s because Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former UN official and former finance minister, was summarily declared the winner only after agreeing a power-sharing deal with challenger Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and the runner-up to Hamid Karzai in the fraud-riddled presidential election of 2009. Afghanistan’s election commission didn’t even release the purported election results, in part because after three months of post-election limbo, we might not ever know who really won the June 14 runoff.

Ghani will be sworn in as president within the next two weeks, and Abdullah will serve as ‘chief executive officer’ in the new government.

If that sounds vague, it’s because it is.  Continue reading Ghani wins Afghan presidency, agrees to dubious power-sharing agreement

Afghanistan’s election becomes a farce — and a US policy disaster


It’s hard, exactly, to pinpoint the exact moment when Afghanistan’s presidential election became a complete absurdity.afghanistan flag

With a US-brokered audit process of the election already behind schedule, and with outgoing president Hamid Karzai declaring September 2 as the swearing-in day for the country’s next leader, the election process suffered yet another blow on Wednesday when Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and the winner of the election’s first round, angrily pulled out of a UN-led audit process that’s designed to validate the results of Afghanistan’s June presidential election. 

As next week’s deadline approaches and the United Nations continues the vote audit, Abdullah is expected to meet with his rival, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (pictured above, center, with Kerry, left, and Abdullah, right) as well as US officials who are desperate to bring the two candidates into a national unity government.

Despite the last-minute talks, it’s hard to think of a recent national election that has been so thoroughly botched — with such dire consequences for the country’s future.  

In 2014 alone, Egypt and Syria held non-credible presidential votes and parliamentary elections in Iraq and Libya were overshadowed by the breakdown of any semblance of national order. 

It’s been a difficult summer for US president Barack Obama and US foreign policy interests — the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia threaten Europe’s security, the rise of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) in Sunni Iraq and Syria goaded US military strikes in retaliation, and Israel’s summer war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip destroyed two years of efforts by US secretary of state John Kerry to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. 

But Afghanistan’s growing political and security crisis represents a fourth major foreign policy headache for Kerry and the rest of the Obama administration.

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Though the audit is only slightly more than two-thirds complete, a premature inauguration of either candidate next week could splinter Afghanistan on ethnic lines, giving the next presidential administration virtually no hope of uniting a country already struggling to combat a Taliban-led insurgency.

Months of post-election accusations between the Ghani and Abdullah camps have polarized Afghanistan more than ever. What’s so staggering is that Afghanistan’s election season started off on such promising terms.  Continue reading Afghanistan’s election becomes a farce — and a US policy disaster

Is Ghani’s Afghan preliminary electoral victory a fraud?


Afghanistan’s election officials have announced the results of the country’s June 14 presidential election, and the surprising winner seems to be former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who trailed widely after the results of the April 5 first roundafghanistan flag

The provisional result gives Ghani (pictured above) 56.44% of the vote, while rival Abdullah Abdullah won 43.56%.

It’s actually not so incredibly surprising in light of Abdullah’s denunciation over the past weeks of the vote-counting process, a sure sign that Abdullah realized he was in danger of losing the race.

On June 18, just four days after the election, Abdullah called for a suspension in the vote count by the Independent Election Commission, arguing that votes were counted in areas where voting hadn’t even taken place due to security problems.

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Five days later, on June 23, Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail, the secretary-general of the IEC, resigned, an implicit admission that there’s at least some substantive basis to the fraud charges. The IEC delayed the original announcement of preliminary results, due on July 2, for five more days to investigate further the charges of voter fraud. As the BBC reports, votes are being re-checked at more than 7,000 polling stations, amounting to nearly one-third of all voting stations, and the commission will check nearly 4 million votes in an election that drew just 6.6 million voters in the first round:

Chief election commissioner Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani stressed that the results were not final and acknowledged that there had been “some mistakes in the overall process”.

“It is only initial results,” he told a news conference in Kabul. “There is a chance of change in the overall figure…. The announcement of preliminary results does not mean that the leading candidate is the winner.

“We announced preliminary results today and it is now the complaints commission’s duty to inspect this case.”

The next hurdle comes on July 22, when final results are due to be announced. In the next 15 days, supporters of both candidates are likely to amplify their calls of fraud and other recriminations in a country that’s still facing a Taliban insurgency that, even in the most optimistic scenario, will present a challenging obstacle to Afghanistan’s next government when most US forces leave at the end of this year. US officials largely believe that either Ghani or Abdullah would be acceptable successors to outgoing president Hamid Karzai, who has become increasingly disenchanted with the administration of US president Barack Obama. Both Ghani and Abdullah, for example, have pledged to enact a status-of-forces agreement with the United States that envisions a security presence beyond 2014.

So what’s going on in Afghanistan? After the first round of voting in the spring appeared largely to avoid the mistakes of the disastrous 2009 presidential election, the country now faces a protracted battle between Ghani’s chiefly Pashtun supporters and Abdullah’s chiefly Tajik supporters.

Continue reading Is Ghani’s Afghan preliminary electoral victory a fraud?

Did Abdullah just win the Afghan presidency?


Earlier this week, leading Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah secured the endorsement of Zalmai Rassoul, the third-place finisher in the April 5 first-round election. That brings Abdullah, a former foreign minister and the runner-up to outgoing president Hamid Karzai in the flawed 2009 presidential election, the strong frontrunner in an anticipated runoff likely to be held on June 14. afghanistan flag

Although results are due to be finalized Thursday (delayed for a day due to the high volume of serious complaints about the voting), Abdullah leads in the preliminary results with 44.94% of the vote, and if he wins the presidency, it will give the country’s Tajik ethnic minority a key role in policymaking in the years ahead.

Abdullah (pictured above, center, with Rassoul, right), who is half-Pashtun and half-Tajik, served as a chief aide to the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, a top Tajik commander of the Northern Alliance, which helped sweep the Taliban out of power in 2001-02. That gives Abdullah credibility among Afghanistan’s two most important ethnic groups. His running mate, Mohammad Khan, is a former leader of Hezb-i-Islami, a Pashtun insurgent group not incredibly unlike today’s Taliban insurgency.

His nearest challenger is Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and former Afghan finance minister. Ghani was trailing with 31.47% in the latest count, enough to power him to a runoff against Abdullah — but perhaps too deep a deficit to defeat Abdullah in the second round, given that Abdullah’s first-round total suggests he’s only 5.06% away from securing an outright majority.

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Rassoul, who won just 11.48% of the vote served until very recently as Afghanistan’s foreign minister, and he ran with the support of  Karzai’s brother, Quayum Karzai, who dropped out of the presidential race earlier this spring. Though Rassoul didn’t win Karzai’s official endorsement, he’s widely seen as the candidate of the outgoing administration, and his support drew mainly from Pashtun tribes loyal to Karzai in southern Afghanistan.

In the country’s politics, building a presidential majority is less about winning over individual voters on the basis of ideology, but about cobbling together a majority from among the country’s ethnic groups. Pashtuns, largely dominating the south and east of the country, constitute around 42% of the population, and as the most populous group, have typically dominated politics — in the royal era, the Soviet era, the Taliban era and the Karzai era since 2001.


Tajiks, however, are the most dominant group in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan’s northeast, constituting 27% of the population. Uzbeks, 9% of the population, predominate in the north-central part of the country and Hazaras, which constitute another 9% of the population, live in the central highlands of Afghanistan.

Ghani’s running mate, Abdul Rashid Dostum, is a leading Uzbek warlord, and Ghani had hoped to build a coalition based on winning the largest share of the Pashtun vote and bringing along the Uzbek vote as well.

You can see how ethnic ties play a role in the preliminary election results in this map from the indispensable website Electoral GeographyGhani was the top candidate in much of the Pashtun and Uzbek heartlands. Rassoul was the top candidate in the southern province of Kandahar, the home of the Karzais. Abdullah dominated the rest of the country, including the Hazara highlands, Kabul and the Tajik northeast.


Continue reading Did Abdullah just win the Afghan presidency?

Afghanistan hopes for calm as key presidential election approaches


Though there’s a long list of world elections approaching between now and the end of May — from Europe to India to South Africa — none of them will have nearly as direct an influence on US foreign policy as the presidential election in a small central Asian country of just 31 million people. afghanistan flag

On April 5, Afghanistan will hold only its third presidential election to select a successor to Hamid Karzai, who’s held the office since December 2001 and who is barred from seeking a third term under the country’s new constitution. By far, the largest challenge for Afghanistan’s new president secure will be to secure the country upon the US troop drawdown that’s expected to be complete by the end of 2014. Continue reading Afghanistan hopes for calm as key presidential election approaches