Conflict Alerts # 25, 19 February 2020
In the news
On 19 February 2020, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the September 2019 election. According to the results, Ghani had secured 50.64 per cent of votes, defeating Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who garnered 39.52 per cent of votes.
The victorious Ghani stressed the significance of peace talks with Taliban, inviting them to contest in the elections; spoke of the need for a united Afghanistan; and congratulated Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an infamous commander who won 3.8 per cent votes.
However, Abdullah Abdullah, at a news conference in Kabul, challenging the results, has announced to form a parallel government that is “inclusive”. Taliban has also rejected Ghani’s win citing fraud.
Issues at large
Results of Afghanistan’s Presidential elections were announced five months after a vote amid low turnout owing to security concerns and apprehensions regarding electoral fraud. The results which were scheduled to be announced on 19 October 2019, were delayed continuously owing to protests from electoral candidates, electoral fraud allegations and technical issues cited by the Elections Commission. In December 2019, the “preliminary results” declared Ghani, the winner by a slim margin. Abdullah rejected the results citing fraud; Ghani scorned the allegations.
In 2014, Ghani and Abdullah shared power in the US-backed “unity government”; rigging of votes, corruption, stuffing of ballots were the primary complaints of the previous elections.
Afghanistan has an estimated 35 million population of which a small fraction, 9.6 million, are registered voters. Amidst Taliban threats and purging of over a million of the 2.7 million voters owing to electoral fraud allegations and discrepancies, a mere 1.8 million votes tallied in the September 2019 presidential elections.
The Afghan election held in 2019 was expected to add political stability. Though the polling was less, due to violence, there was an expectation that the democratic process would continue to expand and act as a bulwark against any Taliban expansion and influence.
With Abdullah Abdullah rejecting the election results, the above may not be the case.
The big question now is: will the September 2019 election and its results in February 2020 address or upset the Afghan hope in the electoral processes?
The results were declared in the wake of US-Taliban talks paving the way for a seven-day “Reduction in violence” campaign. The US-led NATO forces have been fighting armed factions and rebel groups since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001. The US demands regarding ceasefire have been debated and deliberated as an overture to a final peace deal with certain reservations.
Taliban has also rejected of Ghani’s victory; this may also delay the withdrawal of the US troops.