Thursday, September 03, 2009

The election in Afghanistan

In the wake of the problems with the Iranian election, we now have widespread reports of fraud and corruption in Afghanistan's election. This time, though, the U.S. finds itself in a more difficult position.

There is increasing uneasiness on the left in America with respect to continuing the war in Afghanistan. And while I've been generally supportive of Obama's plans so far, I would not be able to get behind continued U.S. support for a Karzai government if the allegations that he stole the election are substantiated (New York Times, 9/1/09):

Just a week before this country’s presidential election, the leaders of a southern Afghan tribe called Bariz gathered to make a bold decision: they would abandon the incumbent and local favorite, Hamid Karzai, and endorse his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Mr. Abdullah flew to the southern city of Kandahar to receive the tribe’s endorsement. The leaders of the tribe, who live in a district called Shorabak, prepared to deliver a local landslide.

But it never happened, the tribal leaders said.

Instead, aides to Mr. Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali — the leader of the Kandahar provincial council and the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan — detained the governor of Shorabak, Delaga Bariz, and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election day. The ballot boxes were taken to Shorabak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots.

At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai.

“Not a single person in Shorabak District cast a ballot — not a single person,” Mr. Bariz said in an interview here in the capital, where he and a group of tribal elders came to file a complaint. “Mr. Karzai’s people stuffed all the ballot boxes.”

The U.S. is a dominant force in Afghani politics right now. If Karzai stole the election, it's our responsibility to take action, even if that means leaving.

UPDATE

A more recent roundup of election news from Afghanistan here.

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