The South Asia Channel

The rule of law prevails

By J Alexander Thier Today in Kabul both President Karzai and the Independent Election Commission announced that they would accept the findings of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and agreed to a runoff election on November 7 this year. The ECC released its findings on Sunday, throwing out some 1.25 million ballots from the August ...

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 19: Afghan women by bread and a man walks by an election poster as the UN-backed Independent Election Commission (IEC) comes out with their long awaited results on October 19, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) stated that, with votes from 210 polling stations thrown out due to allegations of fraud in the August 20 presidential election, President Hamid Karzai's percent of the vote fell to 48, just under the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off election, which could force President Hamid Karzai to accept a possible run-off against his top challenger Abdullah Abdullah. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)


By J Alexander Thier

Today in Kabul both President Karzai and the Independent Election Commission announced that they would accept the findings of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and agreed to a runoff election on November 7 this year. The ECC released its findings on Sunday, throwing out some 1.25 million ballots from the August 20 contest due to fraud.

With nearly one million of those ballots coming from Karzai’s tally, his percentage of the vote dropped to 48.3 percent, below the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff. Dr. Abdullah had nearly 200,000 votes thrown out due to fraud, but saw his overall percentage climb to 31.5.

President Karzai said in a press conference that he and his government “welcome the decision made by the Independent Election Commission, we believe the decision is legitimate, legal and according to the constitution of Afghanistan.” Karzai’s acceptance of the outcome of the two-month-long fraud investigation by the ECC is a triumph for the ECC, the election process, and for Afghanistan as a whole.

During the last two months, many commentators have suggested that the elections are not meaningful to Afghans and that we should simply move on and accept Karzai’s victory. But the most important and frequently overlooked aspect of this process was not simply about the outcome of the election itself, but whether the powerful — in this case Karzai — would be subordinated to the law. The election process and the ensuing fraud reinforce a narrative of corruption and impunity about the government. This perception feeds resentment and apathy towards the government and creates a conducive environment for the insurgency.

The fact that a long and deliberative investigation that collected thousands of complaints from citizens, that examined ballot boxes from all 34 provinces, and that brought Afghans and the international community together to support a difficult but just outcome, is truly cause for celebration.

Alexander Thier is the Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the US Institute of Peace. He is co-author and editor of “The Future of Afghanistan” (USIP, 2009). He lived in Afghanistan for about 7 of the last 16 years, and travels there frequently.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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