By Martine van Bijlert
What do Afghans think, now that a million votes have been disqualified and the second round of elections has been announced? A collection of conversation fragments from October 20:
“I am worried that something will go wrong with the elections. Many people are worried. So Karzai’s acceptance of the results is good. He has decided to avoid confrontation. It is a wise decision. It eases the tension in the country.” — manager in a large company in Balkh
“Let me tell you, I am afraid. I lived through all the wars, but I was young then. Now I am old and I don’t have the patience or the tolerance anymore… We had a lot of fraud in our election. Everywhere in the world there is fraud in elections, but other countries are more developed so their fraud is more developed. Here we somehow didn’t know how things work… I used to work in the IEC for many years, but in this election when I saw how dirty the process had become and how the voter cards were being distributed everywhere, I quit. I didn’t want to lose my good name for a salary… Karzai announced today that there will be a second round. He was in a bad situation and his speech was all over the place. What he said? Whatever he said, he was forced to say it. He had no choice… We’re going to have another election but we still have no candidate we would want to vote for.” — woman at a Kabul wedding
“The Karzai supporters in the south are very stressed because of the second round. They say that the foreigners are not giving Karzai his victory. But the maleks (village leaders) are very happy, because they will be making a lot of money again in the campaign. The common people, they will not vote. They did not vote before — and the boxes were still full — and they will not go now… We had hoped the election would bring change. That would have been good, but it didn’t happen. So for that reason maybe we should have a second round. Even though there are problems, you should give us a second round. So they will understand that the nation has a right and that you cannot just rule over it as you wish.” — southern tribal elder
“I am calling from Daikondi. Our request is that the IEC staff in our province is changed. If not, the people will not be the owner of their vote and the second round will be the same as the first. The groups who are here will make sure that the candidate of their choice gets the vote. A coalition government would have been better. But whoever wins and becomes the new President, you should make sure he gives power to good and appropriate people, there should be criteria for that. Please pay attention to this and pass on our requests. We want the corrupt IEC people to be replaced or a coalition government.” — community leader from Daikondi
“There should be no coalition government. In that case it would have been better to ignore the fraud and give Karzai his victory. There is no coalition government in the law, it has no legitimacy. If we allow that now, then we can ignore the outcome of the vote every time. Now that the ECC has followed the law and forced the second round, we should follow the law until the end. It is the only criteria we have.” — young civil society activist in Kabul (just before the ECC announcement)
“So what is happening now with this second round, are they are really getting ready for it? That’s impossible. That’s really impossible. Things will never be ready in time. We won’t even be able to gather our observers in time.” — member of a provincial campaign team
A small collection of random conversation fragments, October 19, 2009.
“Before the election I called the IEC representative in my area and asked him to arrange votes for [the presidential candidate I was supporting]. He asked me to whom in the provincial council he should also give the vote, but I told him to leave it. These people do nothing for us once they are elected… The people now are not happy and they are not upset. They are busy with their own things. But for a while we were hopeful that maybe change would come. Now we are tired that the result is unclear. And our leaders in Kabul are saying that the foreigners are trying to make a weak government.” — young tribal elder from Uruzgan
“My friends are calling me all the time. They are telling me to be in touch with the IEC and to make sure that my votes don’t become less. But how can I do that, I don’t know anyone there. The people should be the ones to elect their candidates, not the commission, not the fraud… Of course we can accept the fraud for this time, but it will not be for one time, it will be like this every time — that is why we cannot accept it… There is no shame now.” — female provincial candidate from Baghlan
“A second round is difficult, because there are so many places you cannot vote. And if we use the same voter cards, the vote will be as fraudulent as the first time… A coalition government is also not a solution. It will have no legitimacy and it is not the people’s fault that there was so much fraud. You cannot just give them a government they don’t want… The authorities should announce the results and address the fraud. They should prosecute the people who are responsible for the fraud. But it will not happen: the people who did the fraud are also the people who were in the campaign teams. They will instead be rewarded for their work… Karzai and his people are saying that it is normal to have fraud, but it is not true. If it is normal, then why do we have laws?” — former provincial council candidate from Nangarhar
“A second round, how can we have a second round? Who will be the guarantor? Will London sign a paper that it will pay back 200 million dollar to the U.N., if there is so much fraud again? Will Washington pay?” — young trader from Helmand
“The Taliban are quite happy with these elections. It doesn’t matter whether Karzai wins or loses, it is good for us and more people will join… But what this country really needs is a government that has good relations with the people. And the foreigners need to have good relations with the people. If not, whatever they do or however much they give or try, it will not matter.” — southern tribal elder (close to the Taliban)
“The last few months I have just been waiting to see what happens. Journalists have called to ask what I thought about things and I told them that I don’t know. I worry. I look at my suits and my shoes (he does have very nice suits and shoes) and wonder what I will do with them if things go wrong. When I am in my garden (he has a very nice garden) I think that if something happens I may never see my garden again… You are very lucky to live in a country where not much can happen. You may be hit by an economic crisis, but you don’t have to be afraid that you cannot live there anymore… I am happy my family is out. Even if that means that at night I feel like the walls are eating me.” — young Kabul politician
“So has the election been solved yet? Still not? Who are you supporting? A solution that is good for Afghanistan? You cannot find anyone in the whole of Afghanistan who is good for Afghanistan.” — Kandahari businessman
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Interview |