Why the Afghan Election Still Isn’t Over

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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