With only days to go before the election in Afghanistan, it looks like the fix is in. That’s what most Afghans have been saying all along.
The danger now is not that the election might be tainted by backroom deals or fraud. That’s old news. Even international bodies charged with facilitating the process have given up the goal of “free and fair” elections. They aim instead for “credible” elections–which means results that look pretty good, even when they’re not.
No, the real danger is that those international bodies, led by the United States, will validate the crooked election as “credible” even when it doesn’t look good at all. Yet the hopes of the US-led international community ride on a credible outcome to provide evidence of Afghanistan’s conversion to “democracy.” Not to mention their vested interests–including an estimated $500 million to stage this extravaganza. If they were going to fess up to fraud, they should have done so long ago.
A quick list of only a few things gone wrong:
Stacking the Deck: All the members of the so-called Independent Election Commission were appointed by President Karzai, and they’ve never disguised their allegiance to him. So the initial vetting process for candidates eliminated some promising challengers and spared old cronies, including the war criminals the process was meant to screen out.
Backroom Deals: One after another, potential and declared candidates have bowed out to back Karzai. Word leaks out about which ministries they’ve been promised. Karzai buys the support of local leaders running for provincial offices, using (illegally) all the perks of office, from airplanes to free airtime on national TV, to help his friends and himself. One of his deals brought him Hazara support in exchange for the notorious Shia Personal Status Law, enforcing a wife’s sexual servitude in violation of the Afghan Constitution.
Voter Fraud: In May in Ghazni, $200 would buy 200 blank registration cards, but lots of people, including minors, already had plenty. Men were able to get a bunch by handing in a list of women for whom they will vote by proxy. Since no central registry exists, verification is impossible. A recent report places the number of voter registration cards distributed (not including fakes) at 17 million, almost twice the estimated number of eligible voters in the country. To guarantee victory in the last elections in 2004 and 2005, many candidates arranged to have ballot boxes stuffed while awaiting transport to central collection points. So this time the votes are to be tallied at the polling places. That should make it even easier for local big men to fix the results; they won’t even have to count.