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Afghan voters being tricked

Florian Weigand / ngSeptember 21, 2014

The fact that the two main candidates came to an agreement before the results of the presidential elections were announced is a danger to democracy in Afghanistan, writes DW's Florian Weigand.

Archivbild Einigung über Einheitsregierung in Afghanistan unterzeichnet
Image: picture-alliance/AA

Even if you know you have to be prepared for all eventualities in Afghanistan, it still manages to surprise you with yet another absurdity. Honestly, who would have thought that after a six-month, two-stage election process which included a complicated audit, endless telephone conversations and flying visits of politicians from across the globe would yield a result worthy of an egg race at a kids' birthday party? There are only winners, just so no one walks off in a huff?

It's so outrageous that even Afghans are shaking their heads in disbelief. People have been venting their frustration over the leadership on social media outlets. Most of the comments are bitter and frustrated, painting a gloomy picture of the future. But many people have stopped commenting, there is a sense of fatalism.

Deutsche Welle REGIONEN Asien Paschtu Dari Florian Weigand
Florian Weigand heads DW's Dari and Pashto programsImage: DW/P. Henriksen

How different the mood was just a few months ago. Despite having to risk life and limb, Afghans flocked to the polling stations twice, in April and June, to cast their votes.

Images of hope were presented to the world, democracy was within Afghanistan's grasp it seemed. After the first round Abdullah Abdullah was ahead, in the second round, Ashraf Ghani came first.

The results raised suspicion, there were allegations of fraud. The votes were recounted under the auspices of the UN. At the same time, the two candidates tried to form a unity government. After much toing and froing, an agreement was signed this Sunday.

The idea to include both candidates in the government is seemingly a Solomonian way out of a dead end the country has got itself into. But for the nascent democracy in Afghanistan it could prove fatal.

Voters will have got the impression that their votes don't count if, in the end, the powers that be once again decide amongst themselves who will lead the country and in what way.

Note that the agreement was signed before the official results were announced. Ghani is to be president and Abdullah will be chief executive, a newly created post.

Perversion of democracy

What's worse is that a few hours later, the electoral commission declares Ghani president, but doesn't announce any concrete figures or the actual winner. It shows a shocking disrespect for voters and, frankly, a perversion of democracy.

Given the experience with this Afghan version of the western import of democracy it would hardly be a surprise if Afghans would revert to other forms of government.

Already, the Taliban are gaining ground again, cleverly using the power vacuum caused by the election process. And the toing and froing of the last few months shows that Abdullah and Ghani are primarily interested in preserving their own power, which means it's possible that one of them may look to the extremists for support.

But there is hope. Now that there is a new government, work on the most pressing issues can begin, like the signing of the security agreement with the US and, perhaps more importantly, aid negotiations for the crisis-torn country.

Ghani desperately needs the funds to push through reforms, also in the financial sector. To that end, all the members of the unity government need to be on the same page - Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara, North and South, liberal and conservative.

If they can work together long-term, it would be a first in Afghan history. But it's not looking good at the moment.