The Streisand effect and the Afghan election

Writing for Eurasianet, Aunohita Mojumda makes the case that Abdullah Abdullah is the real winner in the Afghan election debacle: Heading into the August 20 election, Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik, stood virtually no chance of winning the election — whether outright in the first round, or in a run-off — because of his inability to muster ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
577589_091104_abdullah2.jpg
577589_091104_abdullah2.jpg
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 1: Afghan opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah attends a press conference on November 1, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Abdullah announced that he would pull out of this week's run-off presidential election in Afghanistan due to concerns over widespread fraud and abuse of power by the governmment. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Writing for Eurasianet, Aunohita Mojumda makes the case that Abdullah Abdullah is the real winner in the Afghan election debacle:

Heading into the August 20 election, Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik, stood virtually no chance of winning the election -- whether outright in the first round, or in a run-off -- because of his inability to muster a united opposition. Given his previous political roles, most notably as Karzai’s foreign minister until 2006, Abdullah lacked a strong and cohesive political base to support his candidacy. Even the ethnic-Tajik opposition failed to unite around him. A key Northern Alliance ally, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, campaigned for Karzai.

Nevertheless, Abdullah emerged as the man of the moment. His skillful campaigning caused his popularity to surge, said Mir. "He had lost touch with the ordinary people as foreign minister. Now he has emerged as a national leader," the political analyst said.

Writing for Eurasianet, Aunohita Mojumda makes the case that Abdullah Abdullah is the real winner in the Afghan election debacle:

Heading into the August 20 election, Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik, stood virtually no chance of winning the election — whether outright in the first round, or in a run-off — because of his inability to muster a united opposition. Given his previous political roles, most notably as Karzai’s foreign minister until 2006, Abdullah lacked a strong and cohesive political base to support his candidacy. Even the ethnic-Tajik opposition failed to unite around him. A key Northern Alliance ally, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, campaigned for Karzai.

Nevertheless, Abdullah emerged as the man of the moment. His skillful campaigning caused his popularity to surge, said Mir. “He had lost touch with the ordinary people as foreign minister. Now he has emerged as a national leader,” the political analyst said.

Ironically, Abdullah’s prestige is now probably higher following the first-round vote-rigging scandal than it would have been had August 20 balloting been deemed largely free and fair.

This could be seen as the electoral equivalent of the “Streisand Effect,” an Internet phenomenon often invoked by my colleague Evgeny Morozov in which attempts to censor information give it more publicity and impact than it would have had on its own. By attempting to rig the vote, Afghan authorities turned a not-particularly-credible Afghan politician into a credible international public figure.

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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