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Afghan election prospects…not good

October 7, 2013

Summary: Don’t get your hopes up too high.  The Afghan election preparations thus far suggest that it will be greatly flawed and more about realpolitik shufflings of power between the usual suspects than expressing and meeting the needs of the population…

Elections, ballot box and gunThe Afghanistan Analysts Network have an important and worrying piece out that highlights the likely problems of the coming Afghan presidential election by reminding us of all the previous electoral problems since 2004 and the fact that none of them really appear to have been fixed yet:

Afghanistan is readying itself for its fifth election in ten years. For those who have gone through the previous rounds there is an immense sense of déjà vu: the preparations and technical discussions, the excitement surrounding the politicking, the questions asked too early (who are the frontrunners?), the attempts of international policymakers to make sense of it all. And, most wearyingly, the ever-recurring myopic sense of optimism that this election will somehow be better than the previous ones. It will not. To illustrate this, it is useful to return to what has been written in the past – the warnings, the documented fraud, the reports from the provinces – in the hope that finally we may learn from past experience, even at this late stage.

I think this gets right to the heart of the problem.  I am increasingly shifting uneasily these days when I hear people pinning too many hopes and expectations on this election – this is not an “End Game” and should not be considered as “win or lose”.  If it is viewed in this very short term perpective, then only disappointment will result – and this will negatively impact on the way the international community (funding, media, engagement), Afghanistan’s neighbours, the Taliban and the Afghan populace itself sees the future prospects for the country.  If I have ever said anything wise about Afghanistan, it was to note in 2003, during the preparations for the 2004 presidential elections, that Afghanistan surely needs at least five of these presidential electoral cycles  – ie 25 years – before we can pass judgement and slowly let our breath out.   I know that is boring for today’s 24 hour media cycle/circus, but this will be about painfully slow and incremental advancement, in which often the only discernible movement will be of the “one step forwards, two steps back” variety.

Lets keep this cautious and expectations in perspective.

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