Time to get tough on Afghan fraud, start with the message
What message does it send when the U.N. representative to Afghanistan says it will be impossible to eliminate fraud in the run-off election?
That’s what Kai Eide admitted last week, adding, “what we will try to do, is to reduce the level of fraud.”
Is that really what Afghans should be hearing on the eve of this crucial vote — steal a few less votes this time around please?
The second round of the presidential election in Afghanistan is more about credibility than the actual outcome.
And it is not just the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that is at stake, it is the credibility of the entire international effort to rebuild the country.
As the International Crisis Group says in a new report, the United Nations was closely involved in planning a first round that ended up being plagued by widespread fraud, and the UN then moved too quickly to declare the vote an unqualified success.
That reinforced the impression the international community was more interested in a rubber stamp than a credible process, and “may have cost particularly the U.S., European Union and UN what little credibility they had left with the public.”
The Crisis Group warned a flawed second round would hand the Taliban a significant strategic victory, and went on to recommend steps be taken urgently to reconstitute the tainted Independent Election Commission.
“There are as yet few signs that the U.S. and others who wrestled with President Karzai to obtain his acceptance of a run-off have either the time, political will or resources available to correct the many flaws that led to the fraud.”
It is more than likely, it depressingly adds, that earlier missteps will be repeated, deepening tensions in the country and fueling further conflict.
And if anyone thinks that a power sharing arrangement between Karzai and his rival Abdullah Abdullah would be a solution to a fraudulent electoral process, I have only one comment to make — look at how that idea didn’t work in Zimbabwe.
The Afghan people deserve and need the chance to vote freely and in fair elections. The West needs to do everything it can to make that happen.
Photo credit: Reuters/Omar Sobhani (U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide at news conference in Kabul on Oct. 11), Reuters/stringer (Afghan election worker carries ballot box)