And the winner of the Afghan presidential election is…

And the winner of the Afghan presidential election is…

Salih Doğan
When I wrote an opinion piece for the Hürriyet Daily News on the 2009 Afghanistan presidential election, the title was “Election scenarios in Afghanistan: Will there be a real winner?” It was a troubled period for Afghanistan in many aspects. The Electoral Complaints Commission had received more than 2,000 complaints, which led to an exclusion of almost 20 percent of the votes due to massive electoral fraud. The whole post-election process took almost three months, even without a second round run-off vote, to be able to announce Hamid Karzai as the winner of the election.

Almost five years later, it is now time for another presidential election in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s people were much more willing to vote in this election and as a result, the voter turnout almost doubled to 60 percent, which was beyond expectations. Even though there were many Taliban threats and a lack of confidence in the Afghanistan National Security Forces (Afghan National Police and Army), there was a relatively peaceful election day throughout the country.

On April 13, 2014, the Independent Electoral Commission announced the first partial results based on a count of only 10 percent of the votes from 26 provinces out of 34. The leading candidate, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister, had 41.9 percent of the vote and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai, former finance minister, followed him at 37.6 percent. The Karzai-backed candidate Zalmai Rassoul, another former foreign minister, was a distant third with 9.83 percent.

The first results suggest that none of the candidates is likely to win the first round with more than 50 percent of the vote. This was not something unexpected even for the leading candidates since one of them, Dr. Abdullah, had already started negotiations with Rassoul for possible support in the second round. Preliminary results are not expected until April 24 and the IEC is supposed to announce the official results on May 14. A possible run-off vote is already scheduled for May 28, meaning that there will be enough time for the leading candidates to look for support from the remaining ones.

The voting behavior of the Afghan people showed that there is a tendency to vote for candidates from the same ethnic background. This suggests that, in the run-off vote, Dr. Ahmedzai might attract the Pashtuns who voted for Rassoul and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the first round, which could make Ahmedzai the next president of Afghanistan. However, if Dr. Abdullah succeeds in receiving the support of those names before the second round, this would put him one step ahead.  

Either way, in a couple of months, if all goes well, an elected president will replace the former one, which points to a historic event in the modern history of Afghanistan. The election day should be complimented for the high voter turnout and the moderately non-violent atmosphere. This was a success for the Afghan National Security Forces and the people of Afghanistan. It is now the Independent Election Commission’s mission to cautiously investigate the allegations of fraud and announce the results of the election. The Kabul administration should be in a neutral position and be respectful of the results. Whoever wins the presidency at the end of the process, there is already a winner; after putting their minds and bodies into action, it is the Afghan people.

Salih Doğan is an Afghanistan expert. He is a PhD candidate at the School of Politics and International Relations at Keele University in the United Kingdom.