Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election comes at a tricky time

Feb 20, 2020

ELECTIONS ARE supposed to bring stability to politics and legitimacy to the victor. Afghanistan’s recent presidential poll, alas, has provided neither. For one thing, only a small proportion of Afghans voted. Worse, it has taken the election commission an agonising five months to count the ballots, adjudicate disputes and declare a winner: Ashraf Ghani, the incumbent, with 50.6% of the vote. What is more, his closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, rejects the result and has declared himself president, despite winning only 39.5% by the official tally. It does not help that there would have been a run-off had Mr Ghani not scraped above 50%, lending weight to Mr Abdullah’s complaints. And the whole election has anyway been overshadowed by America’s continuing negotiations with the insurgents of the Taliban, which threaten to turn Afghanistan’s already tumultuous politics upside down.

This is not Afghanistan’s first disputed election. Mr Abdullah claimed the previous vote, in 2014, was also rigged. He lost then to Mr Ghani, too, and was only persuaded to abide by the result when Mr Ghani agreed to create a special job for him—chief executive—in a power-sharing government. Their joint administration was unhappy and the rivals are said barely to speak. Mr Ghani explicitly and emphatically ruled out any extension of the current arrangement before...

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