October 30, 2009

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe

Afghanistan just slipped a step closer to Zimbabwe. The mere prospect of boycotting the election sent shudders through the White House and Pentagon.

Dr. Abdullah, along with half the country, isn't confident that a runoff would be fairer than the first round. Abdullah's primary demand, the firing of Azizullah Lodin, chief of the Independent Election Commission, was rejected by Karzai and Lodin. Sources now claim Abdullah is leaning towards a boycott.

“I think there will be power-sharing," Khalilzad told CNN. "Both want power-sharing. The difference is that Karzai wanted to be first declared the winner or win the election and then offer something from a position of strength, while Abdullah Abdullah wanted to go to a second round but have a power-sharing agreement without the vote."

But Khalilzad also revealed that sources say Abdullah, "may not stay in the race. First, he doesn't have much money left. Second, I think that he thinks that, given the situation, he's likely to lose, and maybe he'll get less votes than he did in the first round, so that would be embarrassing."

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports from Kabul, "His spokesman [says] that a final decision hasn't yet been made by Dr Abdullah to react to the fact that many of those conditions have not been met. We're now told [Abdullah] is in intensive meetings; he is still making up his mind."

A senior U.S official, wouldn't comment on the likelihood of Abdullah pulling out of the election, saying, "The U.S. remains committed to working with the Afghans to conclude their Presidential election process. If the two candidates agree a solution that is acceptable to both of them, in the interests of Afghanistan and is constitutionally sound, then that is a matter for them.”

Beautiful propaganda. Not reality.

Boycott is a word US officials especially fear, and Abdullah is choosing that route if he won’t work with Karzai or resign outright. A boycott is, theoretically, a good play. If Abdullah doesn’t have the numbers or cash, extorting Karzai’s fraud could be his only means of pressure and leverage. Otherwise he could get nothing.

But his strategy would not be good for President Obama. Any delay to the runoff will set an election back until spring, spur months of negotiation, or leave the situation in a standoff, the worst of all possible scenarios, though all are deadly. The White House will do everything it can to facilitate a deal, and it may succeed, but threats loom large. Obvious actually.

These men don’t want to work together and their actions are making compromise more unlikely than ever. Karzai believes he won and doesn’t like Abdullah. “Karzai was belligerent as hell,” said one senior European diplomat. Abdullah definitely doesn’t like Karzai and already rejected a potential position, choosing to serve in the opposition instead. Abdullah knows he can’t win, that Karzai survives through pure numbers, not good governance.

It must drive him mad, to the point of doing something desperate. He isn't going to forfeit.

But Afghanistan cannot descend to Zimbabwe’s depths. Power-sharing agreements are fragile, some would say futile, when one candidate believes he won and the other believes the winner is corrupt. One fraudulent election leads to another, to months of political jostling, to conflict, and a canceled election would be cataclysmic. President Obama should have launched his troops by now if he has chosen that path. He's being militarily dictated by a runaway democracy.

Dr. Abdullah is already being tipped to boycott according to the Dawn. We eagerly await him taking the stage - Obama does not.

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