At this pivotal moment for Afghanistan, one of the two candidates for president, Abdullah Abdullah, is creating a political crisis by trying to interrupt the vote-counting in Saturday’s runoff. On Wednesday, he demanded that the election commission stop counting ballots and withdrew his election observers from the process. This could be catastrophic for Afghanistan, which is still very fragile and under grave threat from the Taliban. If no winner is decided, there is likely to be a protracted political struggle along ethnic lines that could make it impossible to transfer power democratically. The uncertainty would paralyze government decision-making and prevent the signing of a security agreement that would allow the United States to leave a residual force in Afghanistan after combat troops depart later this year.
Mr. Abdullah’s complaint is that his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, and President Hamid Karzai orchestrated a huge fraud in the vote, a charge both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Karzai have denied. But Mr. Abdullah believes he was cheated when he came in second to Mr. Karzai in 2009 and is trying to pre-empt defeat this time.
Afghanistan is new to democratic practices and given its history of tribal-based politics and widespread corruption, many people, including international experts and American officials, have assumed some level of fraud in the balloting. The issue this time, as in the elections that gave Mr. Karzai two terms as president, is whether the fraud was so substantial that voters could not accept whatever results emerged.
Full Article: Playing With Fire in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com.