Monday, October 11, 2004

The Right Road, Not the Easy Road

The first free, democratic election in Afghanistan is not quite finished (it will evidently be several days before all of the votes are delivered, much less counted) but already there are charges of fraud and threats of a boycott:

Opposition candidates in Afghanistan have appeared to back away from demanding a new presidential election following a controversy over voting irregularities.

On Saturday most candidates running against U.S.-backed interim president Hamid Karzai threw the election into turmoil when they banded together to charge voter fraud.

They said they would boycott the results and demanded a new election, saying ink used on voters hands to prevent repeat voting could be washed off.

But observers monitoring the first election since a U.S.-backed coalition ousted the hardline Taliban regime in 2002, rejected calls for a new poll on Sunday.

They said there was no reason to nullify the results in the nation's first vote to directly elect their president.

At least two of the candidates had backed away from the boycott by Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The early spin on this was that it was a blemish on Bush's credibility, but the fact that the opposition candidates are backing off and that an independent commission is being formed to investigate seem to have diffused those charges:
Afghan law allows candidates to present any evidence of fraud.

Poll organizers said Sunday they would form an independent commission of about three foreign election experts to investigate the weekend balloting.

"There is going to be an independent commission made to investigate it," AP quoted electoral director Farooq Wardak as saying.

The expected violence by the Taliban hasn't materialized to any serious degree:
Millions of Afghan voters -- including veiled women -- braved threats of Taliban violence to cram polling stations throughout the ethnically diverse nation and observers talked of excitement in the air.

Proud to cast their first vote, men and women waited patiently in line for hours.

Officials said turnout looked extremely high. Around 10.5 million Afghans had registered to vote, around 41 percent of them women.

The voting went off without major bloodshed threatened by Taliban militants, a move welcomed by international and national authorities.

"We feared lots of attacks, lots of sabotage, lots of terrorist activities," Karzai said.

"We are very happy that this went on peacefully, we are very happy that the Afghan people came to participate so massively."

While the rebels carried out a smattering of deadly assaults, they took the biggest hit, losing 25 men in a clash with U.S. and Afghan forces in the south of the country, AP reported.

You know things are going well if even the Germans are optimistic:
Meanwhile German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed optimism about the vote during a visit to Kabul.

The international community is keen the election be widely accepted as legitimate.

So it looks like, for the present at least, the Afghanistan phase in the War on Terror passes the Global Test.

NOTE: Evidently Australia's John Howard (who just won his own election quite handily) agrees:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who re-elected on Saturday, said that the war on terrorism had made the election in Afghanistan possible.

"That election has been made possible by reason of the fact that a number of countries, including Australia, were prepared to take a stand for democracy and to take a stand against terrorism," Howard said.

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