The results of Afghan elections are yet to come. But all Afghans have already won. That an estimated sixty percent of 12 million eligible voters in the country cast their votes on Saturday in the face of Taliban threats shows how far democracy has taken root in the country, and secondly, how Taliban have failed to intimidate ordinary Afghans. The smooth conduct of the elections and the huge turnout has been made possible due to a maturing of the democratic system.
Any prediction is quite risky in the case of Afghanistan, but the elections give some positive indications about the direction the country is heading into. First of all, it proves that the Afghan forces are capable of maintaining law and order. The true battle-preparedness of Karzai’s soldiers will be tested after the withdrawal of American forces this year and there are serious doubts about their ability to counter the Taliban terrorists, especially because the Taliban have already established and consolidated their presence in some regions, making Afghan forces mere spectators. But the elections are a strong indication that Afghan men in uniform can deliver in case of an emergency and under proper guidance. For the first time, Afghans had the primary responsibility for their own election security and for delivering ballots to nearly 400 district locations. This task was carried out efficiently. Taliban had tried hard to disrupt elections, and had planted bombs which killed many people, and then threatened people who would turn out to vote. But they failed miserably.
What Afghan forces need now is confidence, a strong leadership and a stable government in Kabul. The elections are likely to install a powerful leader in Kabul.
Secondly, the formation of a new government can help repair the strained relations between Afghanistan and the US. President Hamid Karzai and his counterpart in Washington are locked in a dispute over a security agreement governing the presence of US troops in Afghanistan. The relations between the two have been sinking in the past several months, without any signs of a rapprochement. Only a new government in Kabul can set things right.
According to initial reports, no presidential candidate is likely to win because he would require more than 50 percent of the votes. There are two front-runners – Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, and Ashraf Ghani, a former official at the World Bank, who face a runoff sometime in May. Both are well-known, experienced leaders who can face the challenges ahead.
Afghanistan is going through a critical phase in its history. If it’s able to overcome the current challenges, the future of the country will be bright and irreversible.