A Breakdown In Kabul?

by Dish Staff

The agreement John Kerry brokered to resolve the Afghan presidential election crisis is looking shaky today after Ashraf Ghani announced that he would not necessarily agree to share power with his rival Abdullah Abdullah if an ongoing audit of the vote showed that Ghani had won:

Ghani said the winner will appoint the loser “by decree” as a chief executive to serve “at the discretion of the president.” Abdullah has demanded more authority if he loses. Ghani also said Tuesday that although he “hoped” the audit of 8.1 million votes could be done in time to have the new president attend a NATO summit in early September, no inauguration date has been set because of “technical uncertainties” with the slow-going ballot review. He said both he and Abdullah will attend the summit, considered key to winning new foreign aid for the ailing Afghan economy. …

Ghani was careful Tuesday not to claim victory. But he spoke in a distinctly presidential tone as he laid out a wide-ranging policy agenda for the next government, including banking and anti-corruption initiatives as well as the rights of women and Taliban prisoners.

Representatives of the Ghani and Abdullah camps were scheduled to start a round of meetings today to hash out the technical details of the agreement. Omar Samad examines the potential pitfalls and what it will take to overcome them:

The contentious issues that are outstanding and still need to be ironed out are: 1. Planning for the upcoming transfer of power and identifying the new government’s priority challenges and collaborative frameworks. 2. Agreeing on a national governance agenda, drawing from the two sides’ respective electoral platforms and programs in sectors such as security, economy, foreign affairs, and social services. Figuring out unresolved issues should be left to professional advisory groups that could also involve non-partisan figures.

3. Defining the parameters of power sharing as part of a unity government structure. The two sides will need to step away from a zero-sum option, show flexibility and use creative methods to clearly define the authority of the president and the newly proposed post of chief executive. Models from other countries can used if applicable to the Afghan context.

But Jim White rolls his eyes:

With 15 negotiators on each side, I would expect that the first week or two of the negotiations will resolve such crucial issues as the shape of the table and the length of the breaks between sessions. They might also want to make a “no punching” rule, as there appears to have been another fight today while ballots were being reviewed.  It’s hard to see how Kerry could make a third trip to put the power sharing back on course since the first two have been such spectacular failures.

Thomas Scherer isn’t optimistic that the two men, each of whom believes himself to be the elected president of Afghanistan, will work things out in the end:

Why have the candidates continued to fight? There was almost certainly fraud on both sides as supporters took advantage of Afghanistan’s insecurity and institutional deficits and found varying ways to “rock the vote.” However, the mere presence of fraud rarely matters; the fraud must be great enough to change the results. The preliminary results of the June 14 run-off show Ghani ahead with 4.5 million votes to Abdullah’s 3.5 million, about 56 percent to 44 percent. Does Abdullah really believe that he can overcome a million-vote difference?

I argue, with a couple assumptions, that Abdullah can reasonably believe that he can still win. As such, the parties will continue to fight over every vote and escalate when necessary, further threatening the stability of Afghanistan. This high-stakes game of electoral chicken will likely continue until the two sides collide or until the United States, desperate for some semblance of stability, can persuade a candidate to accept defeat.