Alternative internet tabloid title: “7 Ways Afghanistan Kicks America’s Butt!”
Unemployment, insecurity, and corruption, are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan according to the ASIA Foundation’s 2014 survey. The fraud allegations and controversial recount of the presidential run-off election might have made the list, but the survey ran before the preliminary vote totals were released.
Even before the elction though, pessimism was on the rise. The survey found that 40% of Afghans believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, a new high since the ASIA Foundation began surveying in 2004. If you are keeping up with US politics however, that number doesn’t look so bad. Throughout 2014, over 60% of Americans have reported that the country is headed down the wrong track.
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That was the title of my article on the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog. The article was a response to repeated calls by pundits and politicians for the candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, to end the election crisis for the sake of democracy. Often, the implication was that Abdullah should accept the initial results that Ghani won the vote since it seemed impossible that Abdullah could make up the million vote difference.
However, if in reality the outcome was determined by fraud, then from Abdullah’s point of view his resistance could be for the sake of democracy. The conventional wisdom was that Abdullah would have to be crazy to believe he had actually won the legitimate vote, but as I show it is actually quite easy to believe Abdullah Abdullah won. It only takes two assumptions, neither of which were unreasonable.
Now, six months later, the coalition government seems somewhat stable, but progress has been slow. Unfortunately, fast and politically difficult electoral reform is needed to prevent the September parliamentary election from as being tumultuous. Without a current population census, a complete voter registration, or accurate polling before or after the election, there is no ground truth to compare vote counts to, threatening the legitimacy of the elections. As it currently stands, it is not the candidates but the election process itself that threatens Afghanistan’s democratic future.
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