Presidential elections are over, and Afghanistan now faces a period of uncertainty and possible political chaos. Saturday’s vote was marred by violence, Taliban threats and widespread allegations of mismanagement and abuse. It was the fourth time Afghans have gone to the polls to elect a President since 2001 when the U.S.-led coalition ousted a regressive Taliban regime.
The latest election seems unlikely to bring the peace sought by Afghans, tired of an increasingly brutal war, or an easy exit for the U.S., seeking to end its longest military engagement.
The preliminary vote count won’t be known before October 17 and the final tally on November 7. If there is no clear winner, a second round of voting will be held.
Initial estimates and observations at polling stations suggest a light turnout among 9.6 million eligible voters.
Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said that those who turned up at polling stations “risked their lives to show that they want to be in control of their own future.”
For Afghans, Saturday’s vote mirrored the deeply flawed 2014 presidential polls.
Then and now
Then, like now, the leading rivals for president were Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah; then, like now, allegations of widespread fraud and a deeply flawed and sloppy election process swirled over the voting; then, like now, violent attacks marred voting, even forcing the closure of some polls. This time roughly 468 polling centres were not opened because it wasn’t possible to secure them against Taliban attacks.
The next step in the process is to bring the votes from across the country to the Independent Election Commission compound in the capital Kabul, where they will be counted again. The initial counting and recording was done at the site of the polling and then the ballots were transferred to district centres and finally to the capital.
In a country at war, Afghanistan’s security agencies say the exercise is a difficult and in some areas painfully slow process. Mr. Abdullah said his biggest worry was ballot box stuffing.