After Canceled Election, What Next for Afghan Government?

Without the runoff, President Karzai could become even more burdensome

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Five days before it was set to take place, Afghan officials have canceled the Afghanistan presidential run-off election. Current president Hamid Karzai, whose theft of the initial August election was the entire rationale for the runoff, will remain president. The cancellation comes after challenger Abdullah Abdullah dropped out on Sunday, citing concerns that the runoff would be just as fraudulent as the first election. Karzai has publicly plead for Abdullah to rejoin the election, although U.S. officials supported the cancellation. As President Obama prepares to declare the long-term U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Karzai's legitimacy problem and government corruption will continue to plague American policymakers.

  • Power-Sharing Coalition Unlikely  The Spectator's Daniel Korski explains that the necessary good-will between Karzai and Abdullah has evaporated. "If this looked like a good idea a few weeks ago, the shine is coming off the wheeze. For Karzai had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards a run-off and none of the changes needed to make this poll a little more fair -- and allowed Abdullah to leave the race -- have been implemented," he writes. "But President Karzai has refused to make even this modest concession to fairness."
  • 'Win-Win' Coalition for U.S.  Mac McCallister argues, via Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks, that this is a "win-win for the U.S." He thinks Karzai will remain president but with Abdullah granted a role in the government, thus promoting the government's legitimacy with no change in governance. McCallister writes, "The Pashtun Karzai is still the front-man in this charade... In the meantime all will send delegates to Abdullah Abdullah to talk him off the ledge... The negotiations to keep Abdullah Abdullah in the game will be interpreted by all that Abdullah Abdullah has both credibility and legitimacy. In the end.. Abdullah Abdullah's faction will be offered a greater share of the spoils."
  • Abdullah Won't Accept Cabinet Position  Juan Cole dismisses the possibility. "It seems to me unlikely, since Abdullah is accusing his rival in the country's presidential contest, Hamid Karzai, of having attempted to steal the Aug. 20 election, and of running interference for corrupt members of the electoral commission. The reason Abdullah gave for pulling out of the race, that the elections were not going to be conducted transparently, is more of a thunderous condemnation than a coy offering of himself as a cabinet member. Still, Euronews also notes that Abdullah has not ruled out playing a role in a national unity government."
  • Corruption Will Worsen  The Guardian warns that backing Karzai will only further entrench the government's disastrous corruption. "The idea that he might now accept anything other than token oversight into the corrupt working of his government is fanciful in the extreme.It is high time that Washington realised that Mr Karzai's interests are not its own and that yesterday's political outcome is the worst possible one on which to base a decision to send more troops," they write. "With Mr Karzai back in power [reform] will never happen, and British and US troops will be dragged even deeper into a mission that has lost its way."
  • Only Afghan Military Can Save Afghanistan  The New York Times's David Sanger suggests that, with an illegitimate Karzai presidency, the military may be our only recourse. "Even Mr. Obama's most limited goals require a legitimate government in Kabul, one with the authority to manage the army and to rebuild an incompetent and corrupt police force. It also needs the ability to install competent governors and spend Western aid effectively," he writes. "And in the end, that force — an Afghan Army that can be trusted to defend the central government — is Mr. Obama’s route out of the country. If that army emerges as a trusted one in Afghanistan, able to control significant areas of the country with the cooperation of the local tribal leaders, Mr. Obama may be able to declare that the country cannot again be overrun by militants."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.