Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Afghan Election: A Possible Runoff?

This picture was taken in Kabul by Tyler Hicks; it's in today's Times.

The Afghan elections were held on Thursday. The general story has been that things went relatively well, although Taliban violence kept turnout in the southern part of the country quite low (in some places, only 5-10%, with almost no women participating).

An article in this morning's paper says that the Administration is somewhat worried that a runoff could stall American reconstruction // nation-building efforts since it would mean a couple of months in which leadership of the country is in question. In particular, the Administration is worried that a runoff between Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai could exacerbate the ethnic and geographic divide:
Particularly worrisome was the specter of a divisive ethnic presidential runoff between Mr. Karzai, whose power base is in the Pashtun south, and Mr. Abdullah, whose main support resides in the Tajik and Uzbek north, officials said.

Mr. Karzai himself has in the past raised the specter of ethnic violence, telling officials that if there was a runoff it could lead to a civil war, Western officials said.

The article says that the Administration is being careful to not be viewed as favoring one candidate or the other; special envoy Richard Holbrooke says that the US is "agnostic" (strange word choice?) as to the eventual winner.

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