Waiting For The Next President

by Patrick Appel

Fred Kaplan checks in on Afghanistan:

[If] the election turns out to be as closeand contestedas the early returns suggest, the new president will probably also have to offer a very high position to the runner-up, perhaps even form a unity government with him. If Karzai wins, the runner-up is likely to be the former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah. There is another way to express this: If Karzai the Pashtun wins, the runner-up is likely to be Abdullah the Tajik. (Abdullah is half-Tajik but is considered the Tajik candidate.) In other words, if Karzai doesn't give Abdullah something big (or, should Abdullah win, if he doesn't give Karzai something big), the election could trigger an ethno-geographic conflict (Pashtuns live mainly in the south, Tajiks in the north), on top of the many layers of conflict that already keep Afghanistan from functioning as a coherent nation-state. This is one danger of holding a national election in a state that lacks a national consciousness or a civil society: The vote tends merely to politicize, and thus harden, longstanding social divisions. This is what happened in Iraq's first post-Saddam election.