Home Contact Us  

Afghanistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2969, 16 September 2009
Playing National: Towards Karzai’s Re-election
Jeremie Lanche
Research Intern, IPCS

It could be weeks before the Afghan elections give the country a new Head of State. A low turnout, upcoming reports of “clear and convincing” evidence of fraud according to the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), threats of ethnic division and Taliban-sponsored sporadic violence all symbolize the confusion Afghanistan is dealing with at the present time. It could be weeks, yet there is little doubt about the outcome of this popular consultation: the re-election of Hamid Karzai for another term.

The last partial results given by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) acknowledged 54.1 per cent of the ballots cast to President Karzai, while his most serious opponent, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, has received 28.3 per cent out of the 91.6 per cent of the total votes counted so far. Although President Karzai maintains that the IEC must hold the elections with “honesty and impartiality,” questions on the neutrality of the IEC remain since Karzai nominated his former adviser Azizullah Lodin chairman of the IEC. The Afghan electorate is thus dealing with a rather bizarre situation, where one commission is proclaiming that Karzai is most likely to maintain his grip over the country, and another entity – namely the ECC – insisting on the fact that more than 726 serious fraud allegations are still under investigation.

It is common knowledge that Hamid Karzai ran a disastrous campaign, if any campaign at all. While the Tajik former aide to Ahmed Shah Massoud Abdullah campaigned all over the country, up to the dangerous Pashtun area of Kandahar, Karzai limited his involvement to small scale interventions in empty arenas and convention halls in Kabul. This despite his Pashtun lineage. It is then not surprising to see Abdullah competing with a Karzai unlikely to win with the large mandate he enjoyed in the 2004 Presidential elections (which he won with an overwhelming 54 per cent of the vote). The weak Karzai campaign adds confusion to the partial results given by the IEC.

The reason Karzai maintained his leadership and is leading the polls is because of his campaign - disastrous and successful all at the same time. Afghanistan is about ethnicity and the refusal to acknowledge any authority: this is why the Mujahideen could not save themselves from themselves, and tore apart Afghanistan though they ended up victorious in the war against the Soviets. Karzai cleverly multiplied alliances with political leaders from different ethnic origins, trying to attract both Tajiks and Hazaras – accounting respectively for about 35 and 10 per cent of the total population – by appointing Mohammad Fahim and Karim Khalili as his running mates. He most especially recruited former controversial warlords, such as the Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum – accused of war crimes by Amnesty – and the Pashtun Abdul Rasul Sayyaf – former mentor to Bin Laden – whose name inspired the Philippine terrorist movement renamed after him.  

This did not prevent Abdullah to come back in the race, so successfully that it has raised the spectrum of a second round. Karzai had been warned by the US administration not to claim victory before any official results, and the possibility of a run-off was suggested by US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, during a meeting with Karzai in late August. In fact, the clash that followed suited Karzai well. His campaign team appeared eager to deliver the news to the press soon after the meeting. Indeed, Karzai’s tone has become increasingly nationalist during the campaign – a characteristic extending beyond just this particular anecdote.

As a disagreement exists between the IEC and the EEC regarding the range of the fraud, the Afghan President wants to convince the Afghans that the UN backed EEC represents foreign interests. While Karzai once proudly claimed to be Washington’s man, he is now ready to expunge his former allegiance against the Tajik Abdullah, accused by Karzai’s team to be willing to tear apart the country for his personal interests. Having never been quite popular, Karzai is trying his hand at populism. The truth is he does not have much of a choice, for the several alliances he made with local warlords have considerably reduced his leeway regarding the US and NATO forces. A move that suits Pakistan well, as Karzai no longer blames Islamabad for the situation in Afghanistan. President Zardari has already stated that he did not doubt Karzai’s victory.

What next? The election process might still be in its early stages, but the Afghan President seems happy to disregard the fact. Truth is that the outcome is known to everyone - Karzai is most likely to be re-elected, no matter how. Neither the US nor the coalition forces have the means to impose their will on a fractious Afghan President, bound to his new problematic allies, less willing to listen to the military and apparently at ease with his influential neighbour. Throughout history, Afghanistan has always been reluctant to see any foreign power establish its dominion over the country. By playing on the nationalist sentiment, Karzai is showing the US he too has a sense for Realpolitik. In the end, as the reporter for the French journal Libération Jean-Pierre Perrin puts it, Karzai “has no vision, [but the] international community has even less.”

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
LTTE : The Jihadi Connection

Baitullah Mehsud’s Alleged Death, For Better or For Worse

Q&A : Three New Militants Blacklisted by the UNSC

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.