The presidential election that the West hoped would usher Afghanistan into a new democratic era has been thrown into doubt after a recount was ordered.
The latest results from Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) put current leader Hamid Karzai on course for a first round victory. But the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) run by the UN has demanded a partial recount, citing evidence of fraud. Grant Kippen, Chairman of Electoral Complaints Commission told reporters: “We took this decision based on investigations that we have conducted so far in Ghazni, in Paktika and in Kandahar. And the decision that we have taken is based on those investigations where we found clear evidence of irregularity.” Karzai’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused IEC officials of being in cahoots with the president in office. He believes the need for a recount smacks of corruption and even farce, saying: “It didn’t come as a surprise to me but it was disappointing for the people of Afghanistan and I think it sounds like a tragic joke.” For many analysts such as Stephen Walt of Harvard University, such complications are the last thing the international community wanted. He said: “We have the worst of all possible outcomes: we have President Karzai winning the vote, but no-one really believes the vote; we are going to have people who ran against him claiming that he has no legitimacy and they will be claiming that with some validity.” A recount could take months and could strip Karzai of enough votes to force a second round. With Afghanistan’s bitter winter approaching, the challenge of holding another national ballot would be enormous.