The first results from Afghanistan’s presidential elections have come as predicted. The country is heading to a run-off, with two prominent candidates, both former ministers, emerging as frontrunners. The election commission has unveiled only a snapshot of the overall vote: ten percent of the results from about three-quarters of Afghanistan’s provinces. As an election official said, changes are likely in the days ahead as more results are announced, but a run-off is almost a certainty and Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and mujahideen fighter, is most likely to win the maximum votes. The tally gave Abdullah Abdullah a slim lead at about 42 percent, followed by the former finance minister and World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani at 38 percent. Lagging far behind in third place with less than ten percent was Zalmai Rassoul, a moderate former minister widely believed to be the current President Hamid Karzai’s preferred successor. Winning barely five percent – but still enough to potentially influence a runoff – was a hardline Islamist, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. According to Afghan electoral law, there will be a runoff between the top two candidates.
What is important is that the run-off needs to be held as peacefully and fairly as the first election and if that happens, Afghanistan will experience its first ever peaceful, democratic transfer of power. It is interesting to note that there were no serious charges of fraud or violations which show the high level of satisfaction of the candidates over the electoral process. Of cours e there were some accusations, and videos and photos of alleged violations circulated on social media. But the situation is far better than the 2009 election that returned Hamid Karzai to power, when more than one million votes were eventually thrown out as fakes.
Going by the enthusiasm of people, and the huge turnout of voters despite huge efforts by the Taliban to disrupt the polls, it can be easily surmised that democracy is taking root in Afghanistan. The campaigning was powerful, intense and all regions of the country were covered. Afghans flocked to the polls in huge numbers, and although dozens of polling stations in rural and insecure areas came under Taliban attack, the voting overall was not seriously disrupted by violence. It was a serious lesson for Taliban too. The militants realised that people could not be threatened to stay inside their homes and they prefer democracy than their ancient, strict version of religion. Afghanistan needs a strong and elected government to face the challenges after the full exit of US troops from the country. Despite serious doubts about the ability of any government in Kabul to crush the Taliban, there is no doubt that a strong government can achieve huge success. The first results from Afghanistan’s presidential election show the country is headed for a runoff next month between former ministers, with two other candidates securing enough of the vote to potentially act as kingmakers.