President Obama was right when he privately said he risks losing “the entire Democratic Party” over the war in Afghanistan. With public opinion already souring on the war, the president can’t afford much else to undermine confidence in the effort. Now it is known that President Karzai is on and off medication for manic depression and Afghanistan has held parliamentary elections with even more fraud and violence than the tainted “re-election” of Karzai.
This is now the second election in Afghanistan that has its credibility in tatters. The effect cannot be understated: The Afghan people are going to be disenchanted with democracy and an increasing number are going to simply give up on the political process. The voices among the American people saying the war isn’t worth it are going to get louder. At least Americans could point to Iraq’s elections as something beautiful and inspiring. Americans will not be so willing to send their soldiers to die for a government “elected” with excessive fraud and spend money propping it up during a recession.
An estimated 1.2 million fake ballots were cast for Hamid Karzai in August 2009. An undercover BBC reporter was offered voting cards for $10 apiece. Following the election, Karzai unilaterally reconfigured the Electoral Complaints Commission so that he had the power to appoint all five members. There was some hope that this election for 249 members of the lower house of parliament would be different, as 6,000 commission workers from the last election had been banned. By all indications, this election was actually worse.
The overall turnout was only 40 percent, and the Independent Election Commission records turnout of above 100 percent in many districts under Taliban domination. Despite initial attempts to paint the election as more credible and less violent than the last one, the U.S. now admits there were at least 100 more terrorist attacks this time. Videos have emerged allegedly showing ballot box stuffing and selective discarding by members of the police. One organization has documented over 300 incidents of voter intimidation and ballot stuffing at 280 polling stations. Nearly 4,000 complaints have been filed with the IEC, about 1,000 of which have already been labeled as “potentially significant.”
In some Pashtun areas, voter turnout was very low, a reflection of intimidation by the Taliban and an overall lack of enthusiasm. Land routes that were closed between Pakistan and Afghanistan for security reasons were secretly crossed by thousands who may have voted. It is suspected that their movement was facilitated by the government so they could be used to vote for preferred candidates. Printing shops in Pakistan printed thousands of fraudulent voter registration cards on behalf of politicians.
The turnout of the Shiite Hazaras was very high, but don’t get excited. Iran actively funded candidates and it is quite likely that Iran helped mobilize the Shiites for their own interests. It should be remembered how quickly Ahmadinejad and Karzai congratulated each other on their election victories even when manipulation was apparent. Karzai may have gone so far as to solicit him for advice in election tampering.