Everything seems to be hanging by a thread in Afghanistan. That thread happens to be the veracity of the presidential polls. It is only when a president with an undisputed claim to his chair assumes office that Afghanistan will seemingly set in motion the wheels of fortune. The incumbent head of state will then get to retain some of the international forces that seem to be in a tearing hurry to exit the country. That action, set as a cue for international donors to bestow their munificence on Afghanistan, is supposed to see the country through the first few difficult years. Foreign troops and money at the service of a conscientious president are once again projected as Afghanistan’s formula for success. Unfortunately, Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in the first round of the presidential polls, is proving to be a spoiler of sorts. He has come up with corruption allegations against Afghanistan’s independent election commission. As proof, he has furnished the contradictory data issued by electoral officers about the gap in the run-off vote count between him and his contender, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. There are also the unverified tapes that show the chief electoral officer arranging to rig the counting of votes. Since then, the officer in question, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, has resigned and Mr Abdullah has made encouraging noises about returning to the poll process. If the momentum is preserved, the international community will breathe a sigh of relief that all is well and in Afghanistan it may yet have a brief tryst with glory that it has been denied in Iraq.
But if Iraq is any lesson in history, it should be known that the dry statistics of poll figures are no guarantee for the success of any formula. For one, with the exclusion of substantial parts of east and south Afghanistan from the poll process, it may remain virtually impossible for either Mr Abdullah or Mr Ahmadzai to lay full claim on the mandate. In fact, the thousands of allegations of voting irregularities still lying unaddressed with the election commission make it doubtful if a win could ever be free of doubts. Perhaps it would be better for the international community to insist on inclusive governance as a clause for continuing assistance to the president. With a Nouri-al-Maliki style of governance, Afghanistan’s ethnic divide could turn out to be as disastrous as Iraq’s religious divide even without Taliban meddling.