Monday, October 19, 2009

Runoff or Run Away?

The election panel has ruled that enough fraud occurred so that Afghanistan needs to hold a run-off. Ah, but will that actually happen? Karzai has been undermining the panel and accusing the international community of trying to subvert his rule. So, we are at a pivotal point--in democratizing systems, the key question is--will institutions bind behavior? If Karzai agrees to a runoff, then we can have a bit more confidence in the strength of Afghan institutions. But if he does not, then we will know that institutions do not bind behavior.

The fun thing about this is that his decision will be both cause and effect. That is, his actions will be determined by his sense of the institutions--is he bound by these laws and those who implement them? And his actions will determine the future of these institutions. George Washington could have been re-elected over and over, but he chose to step down. It took about 150 years for another President to violate that institutionalized behavior and a very short period for the institutions to hit back with term limits. If Karzai ignores the panel, then not only will we know that institutions did not bind his behavior but they are not going to bind others either.

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