Why a run off?
“Going to a second round of elections between the two kings, is like the two chopendaz that run so hardly to get the wounded goat that is terribly injured in the first round of Buzkashi. No matter who makes it to hold the goat, it’s the goat that will completely die, and that goat is Afghanistan.” These are the words of my 80 year old grand mother, who still envies her life during 70s in Afghanistan and doesn’t agree that we don’t have kings in Afghanistan anymore.
While the whole world is analyzing, critiquing, deciding about Afghanistan’s elections result and the possibility of a run off, the major question is will a run off ease the current crisis, or increase? At what cost are we pushing for a second round of elections.
It needs to be to understood that a run off will put this fragile state of governance back into suspension, at a time of rising insurgency. When the soldier on the borders of Spin Boldak is still thinking if he should continue the strike, because who knows the next command might come from the ones he is striking at. This is the real situation on the ground in Afghanistan. When the teacher in Kabul has stopped teaching the classes, with the anger that the salary hasn’t come for the past 4 months, when the attorneys have already stopped prosecution of criminals because they are still wondering if they will remain in this job thereafter. The struggles for the power holders to remain in power have limited their reach only to their islands protected by the cement blocks, metal traps and scores of armed AK47 body guards and it won’t be exaggeration that they won’t even know if there is a civil war going on outside their palace.
During July and August, ballot center requirements had to be transported by donkeys on the same roads that are already blocked in the remote and rural areas of Afghanistan. Even if we take it for granted that the ghost voters will transform into real human beings this time and will genuinely vote. A run off that is expected to happen during a fierce winter in Afghanistan. However, if the run off is delayed till next year, the uncertainty and non functionality will take this government back to non existence.
Whenever I see the analysis of the election process by the media, I literally forget that the country in question is Afghanistan. A country that is going through severe war. A country that is indulged into corruption from international aid contracts to approval of a house mortgage contract by the local district court, forgetting that the fierce winter has already fortified the chronic food and heating scarcity for the majority of Afghans. And enduring all these costs for reassuring what is known to us already? Hence, the popular speculations and forecasts have already affirmed the eventual winner.
Here comes the so called argument of legitimacy for the people of Afghanistan that is a lesser matter of concern for Afghans themselves than to the rest of the world. There is a famous Afghan proverb that it’s wrong to re-examine the tested. As an Afghan who is part of the grassroots community for many years, I can assure that a run off recommendation, and that, coming from a UN backed Commission, will not grant any legitimacy to any upcoming government in Afghanistan. But what will, would be to restore the faith of Afghans back to a structure that can be called the government. And that will be to respond to the needs of survival for Afghans that includes security and rule of law in its immediate and stringent manner.
Afghans are worried and fear the warnings of the leading election challenger on the deterioration of the situation or internal conflict because they know that these claims are hugely backed by the power and resources from the war lords responsible for 1992 civil war, when Afghanistan saw its worst times of destruction and when we lost our hundreds of army force that were the strongest in the region.
We are in the similar situation as we were in 1998 or earlier, when the Afghans were frustrated by the violations and fragility of the Mujahidin government and even embraced the Taliban regime of then and allowed them to convert The Republic of Afghanistan to funeral Emirate of Afghanistan. All for the sake of stability and rule of law. This is another debate that the stability and rule of law was barbaric and expansion of oppression on every Afghan man and woman. We have to return back to 2004 and claim legitimacy for an elected government. Today, the mere and immediate crisis for an Afghan is how to survive both economically and politically in a drowning era at the hands of militants and insurgents. I wouldn’t even try to discuss here how much have we already lost in the past 6 months or more, during government uncertainty period, where the functions of the government almost frozen with the fears that its power will be snatched away by the elections outcomes.
What is needed right now for Afghanistan is strengthening its defense and preventing the militants for expanding their reach and access into major cities of Afghanistan. This is a shared goal with the international community and US government, from a national security perspective as well and requires ongoing external assistance.
We are struggling to put a government structure in place for the past 8 years and still aren’t succeeding, and we are demanded to prove how democratic and legitimate we are? The world needs to be realistic with its expectations from Afghanistan that is in a serious war. How much can any war zone achieve in 8 years?
At the same time, a national Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) should be convened by Afghans themselves so that the Afghans talk to each other and find a solution to the current crisis, which is also a constitutional one, a constitution that its architects themselves are not able to interpret it anymore. This process doesn’t require any expatriate complaint commission, but rather declaring it to Afghans on the part of international community, that you need to learn to stand on your own feet and come up with your own solutions. If the assembly comes up with a solution for the two leading candidates to form a coalition government, then that is what Afghans will call legitimacy. This process can be observed by international community as well; so that they are assured that they have a legitimate partner in the ongoing war. Otherwise, viewing the current crisis from the external checks and balance mechanisms, will not only waste the limited time, but will also intense the current crisis, that may eventually result in a huge internal up rise in Afghanistan.
The mandate of this assembly should be also to come up with benchmarks for the next 5 years for the agreed government, those could be prioritized from the previous efforts of the government or mutually agreed by all members of the assembly, and the parliament should be assigned to monitor its progress. In the next five years, we might be only able to increase our defense and rule of law mechanisms, if adequate resources and measures are provided to strengthen these two fundamental pillars of the government, on which a long term vision for democracy can be built for Afghanistan in near future.