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In Afghanistan, A Tense Election

"The situation in Afghanistan remains highly unstable as the election results will very likely not be announced by the previously planned September deadline and allegations of fraud continue to mount,” said Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl, who recently served as an election observer in Afghanistan. "This Afghan political crisis is significantly undermining those in the United States and international community who are arguing for greater international involvement in Afghanistan to try to turn around the desperate situation in that country. Unless the Afghan government can get its act together and work with the international community to both push back the Taliban and reform the government itself, it will be extremely unlikely that the situation in Afghanistan can improve.”

Afghans voted on August 20, 2009 to elect a president and provincial councils. It is the country's third major election since 2001, and the first to be run primarily by the people of Afghanistan themselves (with help from international aid agencies).

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) is investigating widespread allegations of fraud, and the main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah claims to have evidence that the voting was rigged infavor of incumbent President Hamid Karzai. The IEC has estimated that between 40 to 50 percent of the country's 15 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballots in spite of Taliban threats against anyone seeking to vote.

A United Nations' backed commission has ordered a recount of votes from around 10 percent of the country’s polling stations because of the suspected fraud. The Electoral Complaints Commission move could force a second-round runoff. Preliminary results show Karzai securing 54 percent of the vote — enough to avoid a runoff — while Abdullah lagged with 28 percent according to The New York Times.

Both the campaign and the election itself were marred by violence, especially in eastern and southern Afghanistan, where government and international coalition forces are fighting the resurgent Taliban. The Taliban's threats led to fears of a low turnout and widespread disenfranchisement, particularly among women voters. Afghan government officials have reported that at least 26 Afghans were killed in 73 attacks in 15 provinces throughout the country on election day. These figures are impossible to verify, however, because of the Karzai government's ban on any media coverage of election-related violence.

Related materials:

Afghan Elections: Free and Fair?

Back from the Brink? A Strategy for Stabilizing Afghanistan-Pakistan (Asia Society Task Force)

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah Speaks Out on Afghanistan