Preliminary end of a presidential election charade at the Hindu Kush

by Dr Matin Baraki*

On 22 December 2019 almost three months after the presidential election in Afghanistan incumbent president, Ashraf Ghani, was declared the winner. Ghani won 50.64% of the votes in the election on 28 September, the Independent Electoral Commission announced as a preliminary result. According to this, Ghani would have the necessary absolute majority for a victory in the first round of voting. His most promising competitor, head of government Abdullah Abdullah, was reported to have won 39.52% of the votes. In the run-up he had already announced that he would not recognise the results.
On 30 December 2018 the so-called Independent Electoral Commission in Afghanistan postponed the presidential election planned for April 2019 by three months. Sunday, 20 July 2019, was the new date for the vote, as the head of the election commission, Abdul Badi Sayyad, announced to journalists in Kabul. Thereafter, a new president was to be elected on 28 September 2019. Since the term of office of the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani had long since expired, he is working without a valid mandate. Because the population rightly hoped for nothing from the elections, they did not care whether they took place or not and whether a warlord or a US puppet would sit in the presidential palace in future. On the one hand, the USA will decide who will be appointed the next Afghan president, and on the other hand, he would have nothing to say anyway. This is how one could describe the general mood.
This fatalistic attitude of the citizens is, among other things, the breeding ground for the nationally successful operations of the Taliban. They are tolerated or protected by the population, or are even desired. The people are fed up with the corrupt apparatchiks in the state, administration, justice, military and police, all have literally been annexed by warlords and their entourage, as well as by the American- and Euro-Afghans.
On September 28, 2019 they finally had a vote. The ballot paper contained the names of 18 candidates. Among them were warlords and war criminals such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmad Zia Masud and the American Afghan Ashraf Ghani. Four candidates had withdrawn their applications in favour of the more successful ones. In principle they sold out because they were promised posts by the promising candidates Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. This was the case in all previous elections since 2004.
In 2019, 13.5 million people were eligible to vote. Of these, 9.6 million registered, but only 2 million cast their votes. That is just 16.6% of those eligible to vote. As a result of new surveys, the election commission has revised the number of votes downwards to 1.9 million.1 Only 19% of registered voters, i.e. “less than five per cent of the population”, went to the polls.2
Therefore, the future president at the Hindu Kush is not legitimized. A provisional election result was to be announced on 19 October. Observers on the ground are of the opinion that the aim was to gain more time in order to continue the falsification, as in the past. In the night of 20-21 October “members of a special police unit were given access to the building of the data centre of the election commission”.3 Allegedly this has been an attempt to manipulate the election for Ashraf Ghani. Electoral fraud was reported in his favour from 16 districts. For example in Kabul 130,000, in Paltya and Paktika 150,000, in Kandahar 50,000, in Logar 60,000, in Khost 70,000, in Kapisa 5,000, in Nangrahar 100,000, in Laghman 3,000, in Kunar 20,000, in Helmand 8,000, in Nuristan 120,000, in Sabul 10,000, in districts of Herat 50,000, in Ghurband 10,000, in Kunduz 2,000 votes.4
The trend in Afghanistan has been negative in recent years, as former Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta diplomatically stated on Deutschlandfunk radio. In the current presidential elections, he also expects “massively organized forgeries”5 in favor of Ashraf Ghani. It is therefore not surprising that the favourites Ghani and Abdullah themselves spoke of election fraud even before the elections.
Amrullah Saleh, the head of the notorious and feared secret service under Hamed Karzai, a torturer and current candidate for the post of Ashraf Ghani’s vice-president, had visited the incumbent chair of the Independent Electoral Commission, Hawa Nuristani, in her private home in mid-October with his closest associates, Asadullah Khaled and Hamdullah Muheb. She was pressured to manipulate the election results in favour of Ashraf Ghani. This has caused a storm of indignation in the Afghan social media.
Furthermore, 5,3006, i.e. more than a third of the polling stations were not even opened because the state allegedly could not guarantee security, even though more than 100,000 soldiers, police and secret service personnel were deployed and another 20,000 to 30,000 were in reserve.7 Observers on the ground are of the opinion that polling stations remained closed in those districts where Abdullah, i.e. the rival of the incumbent President Ghani, could have received more votes.
“The presidential elections in Afghanistan on Saturday [28 September] failed in a crash.”8 Nevertheless, the most promising candidates Ghani and Abdullah declared themselves winners immediately after the elections. Although the final election results have not yet been announced, Amrullah Saleh behaves as if he had already been elected vice-president.
Ghani’s campaign alone cost $ 180 million. Who paid for it, where did he get so much money from, while millions of Afghans vegetate in misery, many ask themselves on social media.
It was originally planned to announce the preliminary election results on 27 October. However, this was postponed to 14 November. The spokesman for the Independent Election Commission then announced that the final results would not be released until 6 December.
The US diplomat Zalmai Khalilzad arrived in Kabul at the end of October and had talks with Abdullah Abdullah, ex-President Hamed Karzai and other warlords such as Mohammad Atta Noor, Mohammad Junos Qanuni, Shiite leader Mohammad Mohaqeq and the former security advisor to Ashraf Ghani, Mohammad Hanif Atmar. Observers suspect that the future election winner and the distribution of positions were negotiated.
What are the results of the terms of office of the former World Bank manager Ghani? As is well known, he has almost nothing to say outside of Kabul, let alone any control over the country. The warlords can do as they please. Afghanistan ranks second highest worldwide in the illiteracy rate. The country is considered the most unsuitable for foreign investment. Afghanistan is 172nd out of 180 countries in terms of corruption. The country is number one worldwide in drug production, lack of security for women and journalists. Over 72% of women have mental health problems. About three million people are drug addicts, including children. Second to Syria, the majority of young Afghans leave home, mostly from the middle class. Afghanistan is thus losing the forces that are indispensable for reconstruction. About 75% of the population live below the poverty line. Despite billions of dollars in aid, Afghanistan is in debt with more than one billion dollars.
The Taliban move around the Hindu Kush like fish in water. This is where their strength lies. Whether we like them or not, they are the only armed organised force that fights mercilessly against the occupiers and pays with their lives. There will be no peace without their adequat participation in the political process. They control about 60% of the country and are capable of carrying out any military operation at any time, even in the security zone in Kabul, where important state bodies, diplomats, international organisations, Western intelligence services and NATO have their headquarters. In the areas controlled by the Taliban, they have long since created state-like structures that function better than the Kabul administration.
According to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the number of civilians killed by US air strikes in the first nine months of 2017 increased by 52% compared to 2016.9 The number of civilians injured and killed increased by 42% in the third quarter of 2018. With nearly 1,200 killed and more than 3,100 injured, the highest number of civilian casualties in a quarter was recorded since the UN began recording in 2009.10
The majority of the Afghan population is completely disillusioned and has no hope that the future president will be able to change their situation for the better. Therefore, they are not as anxious to see the final election results as the international public. They openly say that we do not care who will be entitled to call himself the next Afghan President.    •

*    Dr Matin Baraki, born in Afghanistan in 1947, worked as a teacher there before coming to Germany. Today, he is an expert on Afghanistan and a development policy consultant. He is a member of the Center for Conflict Research and a lecturer on international politics at the Philipps University of Marburg.

1    Meier, Christian. Beschädigte Wahlen, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1 November 2019, p. 8
2    Reuter, Christoph et al. Ein Friedhof für alle, in: Der Spiegel, Nr. 49, 30 November 2019, p. 87
3    ibid.
4    This was reported on facebook at “Unabhängige Kongresse der Jugend Afghanistans” on 16 October 2019
5    Holl, Norbert. Das Experiment ist gescheitert: Interview, in: Deutschlandfunk, 28 September2019
6    cf. Krüger, Paul-Anton: Abstimmung mit vollem Risiko, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28./29 September 2019, p. 10
7    cf. Krüger, Paul-Anton: Geringe Wahlbeteiligung, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 30.9.2019, p. 7; Tote und Verletzte bei Präsidentschaftswahl, in: Spiegel Online, 28 September 2019
8    Corriere della Sera, Milan, 30 September 2019
9    cf. Immer mehr US-Bomben auf Afghanistan, dpa, 21 January 2017
10    cf. Afghanistan: Immer mehr zivile Opfer, in: dpa, 17 October 2019

(Translation Current Concerns)

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