Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Afghanistan - Awash in Opium And Democracy

Thanks to their brilliantly thought-out constitution, Afghanis are scheduled to go to the polls 11-times over the next 17 years. They'll be voting to elect presidents and parliamentarians and provincial and district counsellors.

Karzai's job comes up for a vote next May and most of his parliamentarians face elections the following year. For a country wracked by insurgency, this is a real security nightmare.

But, according to The Economist, Karzai remains the favourite to win the presidential runoff.

"Mr Karzai has not said he will run, though most people expect him to (not least, the Western governments which back him). His popular support, however, is lukewarm at best. His government has been tarnished by charges of incompetence and corruption, while his international backers have struggled to fulfil promises to rebuild the country. Large parts of the south, Mr Karzai's heartland, have descended into insurgent-inspired chaos. The president has become increasingly critical of the West, and particularly of Britain, the Afghans' historic foe.

"But, as in 2004, Westerners think Mr Karzai will prove the worst Afghan leader except for all the others. He is from the dominant Durrani federation of the majority Pushtun tribe. He participated in the jihad against the Soviet occupiers but does not have blood on his hands from the civil war that followed. He did not leave his homeland for sanctuary abroad. (Those who did are called dogwashers: the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, said they washed the dogs of rich Americans.)

"No other prominent politician has that mix. Afghanistan may have capable technocrats on call, such as Ehsanullah Bayat, a telecoms mogul, Amin Arsala, a former vice-president, and even, improbably, America's (Afghan-born) ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad. But they lived abroad. It also has former mujahideen commanders such as Burhanuddin Rabbani and Younis Qanooni, both Tajik leaders, and Gul Agha Sherzai, the energetic major of Jalalabad, whom Mr Karzai dubs the bulldozer. But they are tarnished by warlordism. An excess of would-be leaders, in short. And an excess of ways to vote for them."

No comments: