2009 Afghan Presidential Elections " /> 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections " /> 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections " /> 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections " /> 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections – لراوبر ویب پاڼه
کور / سياسي / 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections

2009 Afghan Presidential Elections

Is Free and Fair Election Possible?

Likely Candidates and Possible Winners 

 Afghanistan has been going through a difficult time ever since the over throw of the Taliban in 2001. Despite billions of dollars spent by international community for the reconstruction, rehabilitation and security of the country and the presence of the world’s powers, Afghanistan is still facing a deteriorating security and political problems. The ill-organized coordination among NATO member countries and the weak and incapable Karzai administration are considered the main causes of the current fiasco.

The US and its NATO allies are constantly reconsidering their military and political strategies in Afghanistan.  The US and NATO member countries are not satisfied with the performance of President Karzai’s Administration. They are looking for a strong and experienced candidate to win the support of the Afghan people, as well as to bring social justice, control over the country and keep good relations with its neighbors.

      President Hamid Karzai was chosen as head of the Afghan Transitional Authority by the United Nations sponsored-agreement of major Afghan factions in Bonn Germany on December 5, 2001. He succeeded to win the Afghan Presidential elections in 2004 by 55.4 % margin (4443029.00 votes). Elections were held with the support of the United Nations and other western countries. In 2004, the Afghan people still had a hope that President Karzai, although a relatively soft leader might still be able to take the country out of the present disaster.

      Despite the overwhelming support by the international community and internal organizations, President Karzai failed to show qualities of a strong and capable leader. He failed to effectively oversee the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-torn country. Although President Karzai is not the only one to be blamed for the insecurity of the country, as it is also an issue for NATO and U.S. forces, but he clearly failed in the spheres of eliminating corruption, safeguarding the funds provided for the reconstruction and rehabilitations projects, and the governance of law in the country.

      The internal issues of wide spread corruption, roaming of warlords, the presence of pro-communist elements in the government, and his failure to reduce civilian casualties by NATO forces led to the decision of the people to distance themselves from the Karzai government. The gap between the Afghan people and Karzai administration has been widening on a daily basis. President Karzai failed to maintain a team of well-qualified members of the cabinet and top government officials. Most of his cabinet members are not only incapable but are out of touch with the public.

      President Karzai himself is a person with lack of administrative and political experience, so it comes as no surprise that he did not succeed to find a team of successful qualified Afghans to run the country. He is considered on a personal level to be emotional, inexperienced, weak and incapable of making both short and long term decisions. He failed to control the increasing cultivation of poppies, drug trafficking and the widespread corruption in the government. The Czar of anti-corruption campaign, whom the president appointed, himself was involved in corruption according to the Attorney Generals office and has been investigated. President Karzai failed to control and disarms the warlords. These warlords still rule their territory according to their wishes such as Dostam and Governor Atta. Attorney General Abdul Jabbar Sabit, who was fired recently, has been complaining that President Karzai did not take any actions against corrupt officials and that is why he was fired. He failed to bring unity between the government and the Loya Jirga. The President failed to win the support of critical neighboring countries. Although continuous interference by the neighboring countries may not be ruled out but irresponsible and emotional statements by the government officials, as well as inexperienced and young governors along with Karzai himself led to the deteriorating ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This led to the suffering of millions of Afghans living in Pakistan and the lack of mutual trust between the two countries.

      According to some sources, the United States has been under pressure by NATO member countries, especially Britain, not to let President Karzai run for another term. Britain blames Karzai for not taking stringent action against drug mafia and the poppy cultivation. Britain is also not happy with President Karzai on his refusal of the British citizen, Mr.Ashdown, as the UN Special representative for Afghanistan. Although President Karzai has shown keen interest in the next term, he has yet to announce publicly his candidacy. Mr. Karzai is awaiting the results of the U.S. Presidential elections later this year. The democrats, who are already not happy with the situation in Afghanistan, may not be interested in his re-election, since corruption, insecurity and poor governance of law inside the country is increasing. President Karzai’s brother Qayyum Karzai and the Afghan ambassador in Washington have been in constant touch with some high ranking members of Congress and the two new US upcoming Presidential candidates to win their support to re-elect President Karzai. But it is a tough sale. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria of CNN on July 11, 08, Obama had said, “I think the Karzai government has not gotten out of the bunker and helped organize Afghanistan government, the judiciary and police forces, in ways that would give people confidence.” Also on July 15, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain told reporters this week that Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai was not the strong leader the United States thought he would b, compared to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri-al-Maliki. McCain also told reporter on his campaign bus that “Karzai has not been effective”.

      According to some sources that US ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalizad, who was once a special envoy of US President George Bush for Afghanistan in 2002, and later as ambassador, has conveyed the potential weakness of President Karzai, both to Democrats and Republicans.

      Now the question is who will replace him? If security remains as it is there is a significant chance that next Presidential elections may be postponed, unless pressed by International Community. So far, close to 200 candidates have expressed their interest for the 2009 presidential elections. But there is still not a major candidate among them who can clearly win the next Presidential Election. All major candidates who can make a difference are still awaiting the US Presidential Election results before they can jump in. There are about 6 major candidates that may win the next Afghan 2009 presidential elections. Three are current sitting ministers in the Karzai administration; two are former members of Karzai cabinet and the last one from the current major opposition National United Front in Afghanistan.

      Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai. Mr. Ghani was a special advisor to the UN special representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Lakhtar Brahimi. Mr. Ghani helped in devising the Bonn agreement in 2001. Besides being a chief advisor to president Kazrzai he was the Finance minister during 2002-2004. Later on he became the Chancellor of Kabul University. Mr. Ghani a famous scholar and planner who initially planned and structured the base of the Afghan finance ministry and introduced the new Afghan currency in a short spin of time. He helped in attracting the International Community’s support and in devising and planning different developmental projects and strategies to reconstruct and rehabilitate the country. He has a rich background of experience as a worker with World Bank. He has a clean record and is thought to be a planner and scholar and he has many friends in donor countries and organizations. However, some circles in the Afghan community and US diplomatic enclave have complained about his temper and poor health. Mr. Ghani is a PhD, and is considered to be a person of hard work and discipline. He has spent much of his life outside Afghanistan. He has not yet made his mind about running for 2009 presidential Elections.

      Ali Ahmed Jalali. Mr. Jalali is also perceived as a possible runner for the Afghan presidential elections in 2009. He led the interior ministry from 2003-2005 during the Karzai administration. Mr. Jalali later resigned on differences with president Karzai. He did a good job as interior minister in the administrative affairs but security did not improve. He is more like a soldier than a politician. He has spent over 3 decades outside the country in US and did not have many public relations with the common masses while working for Voice of America in Washington DC. According to some sources he is more interested to be appointed than elected. His close links with the US Department of Defense and some members of congress may help his campaign.

      In case President Karzai decides not to run for the 2009 Presidential elections two more possible candidates from his team will step in, these are ministers of finance and education, Anwarul Haq Ahadi and Hanif Atmar, respectively

      Anwarul Haq Ahadi. Mr.Ahadi is considered a close aide to President Karzai. He is thought to be the first to be endorsed by President Karzai for the Presidential elections. Mr.Ahadi has shown his popularity to the international community. He is well educated, and a pro-western scholar. The Afghans people may not care much about his personal and social life but the only dark spot he has on his record is that heads the pro-Pashtoon group called the Afghan Millat Party. This may not be very well accepted among the non- Pashtoons populace .Another problem he may face is that his ministry is on the top of the list for corruption and embezzlement while he is a finance Minster and he could not control the corruption. To the pashtoons he is just another Karzai running for a second term.

      Hanif Atmar. Mr. Atmar is considered to be second choice to be recommended by the president. A pragmatic and soft spoken minister of education and who was also Minister of MRRD (Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and development). He enjoys the support of President Karzai. Mr. Atmar has vast experience in reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the past. He has done a satisfactory job in dealing with the public, especially in the ministry of education for opening record number of schools. But according to some sources, his past may haunt him. According to some sources, he worked for the pro-communist regime’s secret services the KHAD in the late 80’s and 90’s. Although his opinion is that some of the Mujahideen leaders have committed the worse human right violations in the country, when they were fighting against the same communist regime. Attmar is considered to have a well organized support in the south, east and southwest but not sure how he will convince the conservative with his past record.

      Hedayat Amin Arsala. Another current sitting Senior Minister in the Karzai Administration is Amin Arsala. According to some sources that Mr. Arsala has already shown his interest to run for 2009 Afghan Presidential Election. Mr. Arsala was Vice-President from December 2002 to December 2004 and later on as Commerce Minister and recently he is a Senior Minister at the cabinet. He has PhD from the United States and has worked for World Bank for almost two decades. A moderate and well-known personality in Afghanistan enjoys the support of the late King Zahir Shah’s family. The benefits that Mr. Arsala has over all other candidates, besides his experience, is his association with the King family who has millions of supporters in the south and south east. Mr.Arsala has vast experienced in politics. He has been in different ministerial positions since 1987-1993 during the Mujahideen era. His clean past record, both administrative and political experience and his image as an impartial and non-controversial figure among the different Afghan ethnic groups, he is considered a serious candidate and a potential winner.

      Another possible candidate may come from the United Front, an umbrella organizations of different opposition parties and former communists and ex jihadi commanders and leaders in Afghanistan. If a single candidate is chosen among the so many well-known leaders of the United Front, there is a significant chance that it may imbalance the next 2009 Afghan Presidential elections. But there are some fundamental differences among the elements of the United Front. Dostam who is also a member of the United Front, who won 10% (804861 of the votes) during 2004 presidential election, does not support some leaders in the United Front such as Rabbani and Qanooni, with whom he has long time enmity. The current speaker of the Ulasi Jirga (Lower House) Younas Qanooni who won 13 % (1306503 votes) during the 2004 presidential election, may also be potential successful candidates if supported by the total heavy weight members of the United Front. Also Mohaqiq, a Shiite ethnic leader, who clinched third position during 2004 presidential elections with close to a millions votes, may be a big push for any United Front nominee if supported by him. There are rumors that according to new agreement by the United Front, Rabbani might be nominated as presidential nominee while Mohaqiq as the first vice-president, and Qanooni will be promised the speaker ship of the Lower House, Dustam will be made as defense minister in case the front wins. The United Front leaders have a history of difference among themselves. Dustam does not trust his rival Jamiate Islami with whom he had long time enmity, and he currently has differences with governor Atta of the Jamiate group.  Rabbani and Qanooni also belong to Jamiat-e- Islami. It is estimated that if the United Front nominates one single candidate, there is a significant chance that it may pose potential threat to any other presidential runner, especially since President Karzai, who secured 55.45% (4443029) of the votes, has had a decrease in his approval rating to 25% among the Afghan population. But the most significant problem for the United Front runner may be the committing of gross human rights violations in the country during the civil war when most of the Afghan Mujahideen parties were fighting for power.

      Does not matter who the possible winner may be, he must enjoy the confidence and support of the United States specially and European and neighboring countries in particular.

       By Sarwar Ahmedzai,

      The writer is US based expert of US-Afghan relations and former member of the Afghan Loya Jirga