Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Governance--The Biggest Hurdle in Afghanistan

“We are worried about voter registration fraud, and we are worried about voters who will be unable to reach polling places because of insecurity,” Richard C. Holbrooke, the American special envoy, said during a visit last week. “And we are worried about the accuracy of the vote count, and we are worried about the ability of women to vote.”

Other than that, the Afghanistan Presidential election should be just fine.... Ugh. How about the fact that Karzai has co-opted most of his opponents so that the election has not been as competitive as it should be? There is now only one real candidate to oppose Karzai--the former Foreign Minister Abdullah.

Elections are always challenging, as 2000 in the US and more recently in Minnesota have shown, but one in a largely rural, poorly developed country with an on-going civil war and a history of corruption and incompetence is a recipe for an interesting few weeks and an outcome that will be hard to prove to be legitimate. Already, there are significant irregularities in who is registered to vote.

These various dynamics combine to weaken the accountability effect--that Karzai is not likely to be held accountable for the corruption in his government because a) he can win by manipulating the vote; and b) he is not pushed by significant competitition. Indeed, worse, his year long campaign has largely been using stands against the international community, focusing lots of attention on the collateral damage caused by ISAF. Perhaps predictable, but certainly not helpful.

Where is www.fivethirtyeight.com when you need them? Well, my guess is that Karzai will win, the people will continue to be disaffected, and a key "pillar" in the COIN effort--governance--will continue to be the hardest challenge and where there is the least progress.

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