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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Trouble in Democratic Paradise

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's first direct presidential election was thrust into turmoil hours after it started Saturday when all 15 candidates challenging interim leader Hamid Karzai alleged fraud over the ink meant to ensure people voted only once and vowed to boycott the results.
Karzai said the fate of the vote was in the hands of the electoral body, but he added that in his view "the election was free and fair ... it is very legitimate."

"Who is more important, these 15 candidates, or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?" Karzai said.
Dubya couldn't have worded it any better himself. Really.

I saw last night's debate in an auditorium on the UM campus. The viewing was arranged by the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace. After the debate ended, several local academics and other experts talked about the debate. The first speaker was a native of Pakistan and very knowledgeable about Afghanistan. He said that his contacts there all said that the Afghan election was scheduled based solely on the U.S. election schedule. Afghanistan was far from ready for truly democratic elections; I think most sober analysts would say somewhere between one and two thousand years, or even longer than in the U.S. Bush was saying last night that Iraq would have elections for the first time. This wasn't true--Saddam was "elected," usually with some 99.44% of the vote. Those elections were rightly called shams, as will be today's election in Afghanistan and the election in Iraq in January, if it happens.