Afghanistan faces an uncertain future

Setting priorities in economy, infrastructure and security are crucial for Afghanistan

The people of Afghanistan, who have endured violence, corruption and poor leadership for almost as long as they care to remember, were given a rare chance earlier this month to write a new chapter in their country’s history. That helps to explain why more than seven million registered voters cast their ballots in the April 5 presidential election, despite a concerted campaign of intimidation conducted by the Taliban. But with the results of the elections starting to emerge, Afghanistan is once again staring at a bleak and uncertain future.

Even though the official result will not be declared until May 14, the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is the front-running candidate. However, he is unlikely to secure the outright majority needed or avoid a run-off election. A second round of voting, tentatively scheduled for May 7, will put him up against Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai, a former World Bank economist who gathered around 30 per cent of the votes in the first contest.

If only the country’s future was as straightforward as a run-off between Afghanistan’s two leading political contenders.

Allegations of ballot box fraud have emerged as the independent Electoral Complaints Commission acknowledged irregularities and began to investigate claims of rigging and voter intimidation. If the candidates and their supporters refuse to accept the results of either the first vote or the inquiry, a period of political instability is bound to ensue.

But the biggest danger to a potential run-off is that it could provide fresh opportunities to the Taliban to launch attacks on their targets. Revival of violence would severely dampen any appetite for reform that Afghanistan so desperately needs. It would also allow the militants to reclaim their position.

Such a cycle of violence could be avoided if perhaps the leading candidates contemplated a power-sharing deal – although, again, a coalition of opposing ideas would do little to fix the many problems facing the country. Meanwhile, the economy is faltering, infrastructure is weak, problems with drugs are escalating, unemployment is rising and the security situation is worsening. Afghanistan’s future is, once again, dangerously uncertain.

Published: April 27, 2014 04:00 AM


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