Germany's top political parties had only positive things to say about Saturday's election in Afghanistan. Philipp Missfelder, a foreign affairs spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), told DW that Kabul had taken a step further in the direction of democracy, with reference to the large turnout. He added, however, that the original objective of helping Afghanistan to become a regional model of democracy had yet to be achieved. Missfelder also said that the departing president, Hamid Karzai, was a controversial figure because of his close ties to western allies. "Not everyone was happy about this," said Missfelder, adding that it was important now for western governments to listen to what Afghans themselves want.
"The Afghan people wanted to vote," said Social Democrat (SPD) defense spokesman Rainer Arnold, emphasizing that the Taliban's attempts to hinder the election had completely failed. Arnold told DW that the future president of Afghanistan had the chance to become a reliable partner, after Karzai had "lost much of his trust in and out of the country." He warned, however, that post-election expectations often exceed that which is actually realizable.
The fight against corruption
"The new president must forge dialogue with Afghans who support the Taliban," said Omid Nouripour, of Germany's Green Party. "Otherwise there cannot be peace in the country." In addition, Nouripour said the incoming head of state had to step up efforts to fight corruption: "It is absolutely critical that Karzai's system is brought to an end."
Jan van Aken, foreign affairs spokesman for Germany's Left Party, was less impressed by Saturday's election. "It is a fact that there are hardly any foreign observers in Afghanistan, which causes us to question the results," van Aken told DW, with reference to the massive allegations of fraud that plagued the last Afghan election. In 2009, Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's strongest opponent, boycotted the run-off in response to widespread accusations of vote-rigging.
All about the troops?
Van Aken also criticized Western governments for their mere interest in forging agreements over troop numbers. "In their eyes, all that matters is that the new president signs the new troop agreements so that we can stay there." If no such agreement is signed, all NATO troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will have to leave the country by the end of the year. Despite intense pressure from the US, Karzai refused to agree to any new statutes.
"The low levels of violence during this election could signify that the Taliban has been weakened," said Thomas Ruttig, of the Afghan Analysts Network. It could also be a strategic move, however. In the Taliban's eyes, it is not the people of Afghanistan who are the enemy, but rather the West and any government in Kabul willing to cooperate with western governments. By allowing these elections to go smoothly, the Taliban could also be keeping the option open of cooperating with the incoming Afghan government.
The future president must hold to international agreements, said Ruttig. It is of utmost importance that human rights - in particular the rights of women - continue to be protected. Too many of those close to Karzai had worked to counteract the recent steps taken by Afghanistan in the direction of democracy, Ruttig concluded.