Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted a run-off election on November 7th after a UN panel found around one million of his votes from the August election to be invalid. Under this scheme, Karzai will face his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, because he was found after the review to have less than the necessary 50 percent of the vote in the first round. A run-off or power-sharing arrangement was believed to be necessary due to Karzai’s dubious credibility.
President Obama claimed a political victory and praised Karzai:
“President Karzai and the other candidates have shown that they have the interests of the Afghan people at heart.”
I am speculating, but I wonder if there might have been another motive besides having the hearts of the Afghan people in mind while agreeing to such an early election. The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, which announced that date, “consists of nine members, including a chairperson and a deputy chairperson, appointed by Presidential Decree.”
Abdullah rallied from single-digit support early in the summer to gain 32% of the vote in the August round. Abdullah’s stock seems to be rising, while Karzai’s is dwindling amid corruption allegations not limited to this election. Moreover, it would seem extremely difficult to root out all the corruption that happened in the August election in a little over two weeks in a country with very little resources or roads to speak of and plenty of local warlords appointed by Karzai. In three weeks, we will very likely be discussing the widespread corruption in the run-off and be left with little options for pursuing a legitimate government that can fight the Taliban.
This rush to action seems comparable to a football game where the quarterback is trying to snap the ball before the defense is on the field so that the offense can score before the defense is ready. This looks like a desperate move to seize and retain power before an effective election can take place, yet President Obama is publicly praising Karzai’s heart.