Having spent several weeks auditing ballots in Afghanistan’s fraud-plagued presidential vote, election officials there are expected to declare a winner within days. If the two candidates vying for the post fail to reach a power-sharing deal beforehand, the announcement could easily kick off a wave of unrest that would all but guarantee a catastrophic wind-down to America’s longest war. The window of opportunity to strike a compromise is narrowing dangerously. Without a new government in place, the Obama administration may well pull back on plans to keep a military contingent in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and without that force, the international community will cease bankrolling the impoverished nation. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, not without reason, is fighting the outcome of an election in which his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, is widely expected to be declared the winner. Western officials say that the audit of millions of ballots cast on June 14 has made clear that the scope and sophistication of fraud was staggering even for Afghan standards.
Having ceded another fraud-plagued election to President Hamid Karzai in 2009, Mr. Abdullah and his powerful backers are not willing to concede defeat in another corrupt election. But they ought to understand that they stand to lose far more by being intransigent. The Taliban are fighting hard to retake crucial urban areas, and the country’s anemic economy is likely to collapse amid the uncertainty.
The Obama administration, which had preferred to limit its involvement in the election, has sensibly offered a power-sharing structure under which the losing candidate, or a designee, would hold a chief executive position with considerable authority.
A senior American official said that Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah appear close to signing off formally on the deal, but they remain at odds over just how much power the losing candidate would wield. One sticking point is whether ministers would report to the chief executive, rather than to the president.
Full Article: In Afghanistan, Time for Compromise – NYTimes.com.