Post-election turmoil in Afghanistan
Elections by themselves do not make democracies. Institutions and processes do. The grand loya jirga — a congregation of tribal elders and the closest thing the Afghan’s had to a constituent assembly — was told that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held in tandem. Yet due to a combination of apathy, impatience and the exigencies of the US presidential elections, this commitment was violated when against UN advice, the presidential election was scheduled very much ahead of the parliamentary one. As Rajan points out, this was not a very good idea at all.
What these polls have demonstrated (especially to the West) is that given half-a-chance, ordinary folk will brave bombs and bullets to exercise their vote. There is nothing surprising about burka-clad women queueing up outside polling stations, where they are allowed to do so.
The elections were a success, despite the claims of irregularities by the opposition warlords, sore-losers that they have proven to be. But it is too much to expect them to stand down Al Gore-style because the decision to hold the elections prematurely was the first stone cast against Afghan reconciliation. If the chief patron of the elections could turn on promises made to the loya jirga, the warlords can hardly be expected to be held to higher standards.
Hamid Karzai is likely to become the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan; but will be hamstrung by a huge discount of legitimacy. And if, as expected, he were to postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year, that lack of complete legitimacy will be a millstone around his neck.