Afghani Elections

The following is in response to an Associated Press article today.

One of the long stated purposes of the United State invasion, and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan has been to unseat the Taliban government, and to replace it with a democracy. In 2004 Afghanistan first held public elections, following the United States invasion, to replace the transitional government, led by Hamid Karzai. Since then Karzai has been president of Afghanistan. He was reelected in 2009, amidst reports of low voter turnout, ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other forms of election fraud. At this time there are reports of much the same things occurring in the 2010 parliamentary elections. The inability of Afghanistan to conduct stable and fair elections represents a fundamental problem in the United States efforts there.

In 1824 the United States presidential election failed to award any candidate a majority of the electoral votes, and thus the presidency. It is widely speculated that Henry Clay convinced the congress to elect John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson, in exchange for being named the Secretary of State. This was relatively unknown at the time, however now it has become common knowledge, routinely covered in American history courses. At the time this was an unknown backroom deal. Similarly, 200 years ago the election fraud that is now occurring in Afghanistan would have been relatively unknown, but advances in technology and the “state of democracy” have forced a situation where such things cannot pass.

In the nearly 200 years the so called “corrupt bargain”, radio, telephones, televisions, and the internet have changed the way news is reported and propagated in such a way that large scale corruption is significantly more difficult to pass. In the age of 24-hour news every stone can be turned in the pursuit of a story, and the internet allows publication of alternative information with a speed and reach that dwarfs all other mediums. The result of all of this is that democracy must be a near complete success (in the sense of maintaining fair elections), or it will drown in allegations of corruption and scandals.

None of this, however, answers the question of why Afghani democracy appears to be failing. The reason for this is that no legitimate democracy has ever entered this world under the interference of another nation. Democracy requires more than just elections every four years, it only truly functions if the population is engaged and informed. An external stimuli can never provide the support and desire for an election that an internal stimuli can. Further, one must question whether the US intervention is even benevolent. The United States has a long history of interfering with foreign democracies, such as the backing of the 1973 coup in Chile, where Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected Allende government, or in 2002 when there are allegations that the United States was involved with the failed 2002 coup against the Chavez government (also a democracy). While the United States may not be advocating against democracy, it could be advocating for its preferred candidate. In the time between the 2001 deposition of the Taliban, and the 2004 presidential elections Hamid Karzai was the US appointed leader of the transitional government, and has been the preferred candidate of the United States in all subsequent elections.

While there is no evidence of US involvement in the election fraud, there is ample evidence that the fraud has been perpetrated by a government formally supported by the United States. This fraud, coupled with a population largely uninterested in democracy, and suffering from a myriad of concerns which are no doubt more pressing to citizens (e.g. rampant violence) results in an environment where democracy is fundamentally incapable of succeeding.