With the announcement of the preliminary results of the Presidential election in Afghanistan, the war ravaged country has crossed one more milestone towards consolidating the fledgling democratic institutions in that country. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has announced that incumbent President Ashraf Ghani had won the vote, having polled 50.46 per cent of the votes. Former Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who was Mr. Ghani’s nearest rival, lost by a margin of over 200,000 votes.
For a country struggling to establish the supremacy of the civilian rule in the face of mindless violence unleashed by the Taliban, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has been quite meticulous in obviating the chances of electoral fraud. As a result, several thousand voters were disqualified after they failed the biometric tests. Even so, there have been number of complaints, and the Independent Election Commission has promised to look into each one of them.
The exercise itself is expected to last several weeks, maybe a few months. At the end of it, if Mr. Ashraf Ghani’s tally comes to less than fifty per cent of the votes polled, there is the possibility that a second round of polling between the two main contestants may have to be held. But since the process is long drawn out, it is important to ensure that this should not be allowed to be used by vested elements to generate any political uncertainty or negatively influence the country’s fledgling democratic process.
It is in this context that one has to appreciate that while many world leaders preferred to wait and watch the situation unfold— Prime Minister Narendra Modi was forthcoming in congratulating Mr. Ashraf Ghani on his election. Reiterating India’s abiding commitment, as a close friend and neighbour, to a unified, sovereign, democratic, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan, the Prime Minister underlined India’s principled support to an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. Mr. Modi mentioned that as strategic partner of Afghanistan, India would continue to closely cooperate with Afghanistan for ensuring development, enhancing security and fighting terrorism in our region.
India also believes that the successful completion of the Presidential election against heavy odds by itself is no mean achievement. It is Afghanistan’s fourth Presidential election to be held since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. And though the Taliban may have since been put on the back foot, they are still far from vanquished. Barely a couple of days after the announcement of the results of the election in Kabul, last week, the Taliban had at least 15 members of the security forces killed in the northern Balkh province. About the same time, they also managed to kidnap 27 peace workers in the western Farah province.
It is against such odds that the people of Afghanistan have been struggling to establish the primacy of the civil rule over the rule of the gun. That is why New Delhi has consistently maintained that strengthening of the democratic processes is the surest way of pulling Afghanistan out of the quagmire of bloodshed that the Taliban have dragged it into, and bring durable peace to the war ravaged country. The latest Presidential election may be seen as marking one more step in that direction.
President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, though they represent different ethnic constituencies in Afghanistan’s mosaic of many ethnicities and regional identities, are no strangers to power sharing arrangements. After the third presidential election, they were persuaded to come together to share the responsibilities of government. Dr. Abdullah, who received a good part of his higher education in India, and President Ghani, who has had experience of working with international institutions—represent the best in the intellectual elite of Afghanistan. It may not be too difficult to persuade them to join together to lead the government—as they had done last time. For Afghanistan has a bigger challenge posed by the Taliban—like the proverbial wolf at the door—that needs to be tackled before anything else.
Script: M. K. Tikku, Political Commentator