There is a tide in the affairs of Afghanistan, which taken at the flood could lead to fortune. Scarcely three months ago, the people of Afghanistan had made it clear that they preferred a political culture different from one dictated by the bullet and tribal loyalties to determine how power was transferred and shared in the country. Despite threats of violence, they came out to vote, not once, but twice — during the first round of presidential elections in April and again during the run-off in June. Then they waited for their political leaders to rise to the occasion — to play by the rules and give them a government of their choice. Habits, however, die hard. As before in 2009, Afghanistan’s politicians seemed perilously close to betraying the enormous hopes that the presidential elections had generated for peace and normalcy when they began to raise questions about the fairness of the poll process the moment the results started to deviate from expectations. Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the poll process amid allegations that his contender, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, had rigged the polls. He also threatened to form his own parallel government, a move that would have pitted the Tajiks against the Pashtuns and set off unending ethnic strife. When things appeared to have moved to a point of no return, a last desperate effort was made by the United States of America, which is banking on the credibility of the next president of Afghanistan to back its extended stay on Afghan soil. Perhaps the collapse of the Iraq government may have served as a warning, but the two leading candidates in Afghanistan appear to have undergone a change of heart. They are willing to look beyond their nose and the comfort of winning margins, and to consider the formation of a national unity government that could trigger Afghanistan’s transformation from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. For now, though, the presidential candidates are only willing to concede to have agreed to an international-standard audit of the eight million votes polled.
Irrespective of whether this bonhomie lasts, the willingness to compromise shows that Afghanistan’s top leaders realize that, shorn of inclusive governance, there is no way a government can survive the threat of being overrun by the Taliban or any other hostile ethnic formation. Even a grudging admission of this, amid all the self-seeking, is a movement forward for Afghanistan.