Afghan President Hamid Karzai and main challenger Dr. Abdullah Abdullah both claimed victory in Afghanistan’s second-ever presidential election. If neither candidate gets an outright majority of the votes, there will be a runoff election in October. (The Times of London)
What the commentators said
Millions of Afghan voters “defied Taliban threats” to vote, said The New York Times in an editorial, and their “courage deserves to be rewarded with far better governance” than what they’ve seen under Karzai. The next president—be it Karzi or a rival—needs to fight corruption and the “toxic and disabling grip” of drug traffickers and warlords.
The relatively violence-free balloting to decide who gets that job was met with a “collective sign of relief,” said Laura King in the Los Angeles Times, but the voting may turn out to be the “easy part.” Election officials now have to determine if the “watershed” election was “free and fair”—or at least enough so to be deemed “credible”—amid a less-than-50 percent turnout and scattered allegations of vote-stuffing.
If things look too fishy, we face a “worst case scenario” of a hotly disputed result—call it the “Iran scenario,” said Christian Brose in Foreign Policy. Given Afghanistan’s ethnic and regional history, suspected vote fraud could conceivably set off “raging civil conflict.” The central government is too “weak and fragile” to withstand that, and U.S. and NATO troops would be stuck in the middle—let’s hope we’re ready, just in case.