For democracy’s sake, Afghanistan should leave Abdullah Abdullah behind


KANDAHAR, August 4, 2014—What Afghanistan needs right now are a few steps forward. It took one in April, with successful presidential elections free of major Taliban violence. It took another in June with a runoff between April’s top two vote-getters.

Since then it has been sliding back into factionalism and political chaos.

One of the two candidates for the presidency has all but turned his back on his country’s political institutions. His country should return the favor.

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Today, after more than two weeks of an extra-constitutional national vote audit, Abdullah Abdullah withdrew his support for the ballot review. It was a review mired by controversy and disagreement over how to identify a fraudulent ballot. Thrice the Independent Election Committee had to halt it because the candidates’ teams could agree.

The latest postponement was announced yesterday, just after a multi-day pause for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr concluded. According to officials in Afghanistan, Abdullah’s team had still not agreed on ballot standards.

Abdullah, a former Northern Alliance commander and the second-place finisher in the 2009 presidential election, took in a commanding plurality of votes on April 5, but failed to reach the majority threshold required of the constitution to become president. His 2009 race against Hamid Karzai was wrought with fraud, both real and alleged.

Abdullah has said publicly and repeatedly that only massive fraud would keep him from the presidency this time.

Abdullah has campaigned as a reformer and a symbol of Afghanistan’s rise above tribal politics.

But as chief engineer of the colossal electoral circus that the 2014 presidential contest has become, he is threatening to undo much of the progress that ISAF has made possible since the last presidential election five years ago.

His rival, Ashraf Ghani, probably got more votes in the second round in June. Ghani is smart and energetic. He wants Afghanistan to get on a path to inclusion in the community of modern nations. He is a former World Bank executive and professor at UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins. He was an American citizen until he renounced in 2009 in order to enter the Afghan presidential race. He fared poorly then, but as good politicians do, retooled and rebranded himself.

This year he garnered nearly 32 percent of votes in the first round, enough to earn a head-on shot at the favorite, Abdullah.

Between April 5 and early June, Ghani campaigned aggressively, building his base and reaching out to less naturally-aligned groups. He spoke optimistically about Afghanistan’s future and didn’t assume victory.

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Both men understand government. Both appear committed to modernization and ties to the West. Both have pledged to fight for democracy and its trappings—individual rights, rule of law, and effective government.

Only one candidate has proposed to form a parallel government. Only one has accused the government of a conspiracy on an epic scale to defraud him of victory. Only one has reneged on good faith promises to election officials, the US, and NATO to see a vote audit through.

And only one has threatened to undermine the fragile Afghan democracy.

His name is Abdullah Abdullah, and he is quickly becoming more dangerous to Afghanistan’s democratic promise than Mullah Omar or any Taliban resurgence.

Politicians often get raw deals. Just ask Al Gore or Mitt Romney. But statesmen understand that it is part of the risk of trying to do good by their country.
Abdullah has revealed himself to be anything but a statesman, and the Afghan people who defied the threats of Afghanistan’s enemies by voting should dash Abdullah’s attempts to render that vote meaningless.

Move on, Afghanistan, without Abdullah Abdullah.

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  • Afsanah

    Rich… you have no idea what is going in Afghanistan. There are video recording that Abdullah has released which prove that there is a conspiracy going on against him. There are many people who don’t want him to be president because he is Farsi. Pashtun people either kill or commit conspiracy to get their ways. So for the love of God, stop it with the propaganda.

    • Ajmal

      I think you don’t know anything about Afghanistan. You are either an Afghan who grew up in the West or an Iranian. Your bigoted comment about Pashtuns says a lot of you. For your information Abdullah Abdullah is also a Pashtun. Only racists will agree with your racist views.
      So Grow up and learn a thing or two about Afghanistan.
      Well done Rich,

      • Sam

        Haha “racist”. Pashtuns are the only ethnic group causing problems in Afghanistan. No other ethnic group contributes to terrorist groups, only your stupid ethnicity. That is a fact!

        Abdullah is only half pashtun, he allies himself with farsiwans, he is the leader of all the farsi people. He fought on behalf of farsiwans against gulbadin and the taliban.

  • Heravi

    Excellent points. Abdullah has taken the whole process hostage. Its about time that the legitimacy of the electoral bodies are restored by pressuring the UN and elections commissions to conclude the process based on existing and agreed upon procedures. Abdullah can chose to honorably accept the final outcome – success or defeat – or take a page from his 2009 book of elections and withdraw to perpetual obscurity.

  • Ziar

    Excellent points. Some people are still talking about conspiracy, but in reality Abdullah Abdullah has clearly defeated in runoff elections where he does not accept the result. Beside that even he does not respect any roles and procedures for audit.
    On the second day of runoff Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said to the media that his rival Dr. Ashraf Ghani is ahead about one and half million votes, which shows his defeat, but from that date on he started to accuse Afghanistan Independent Elections Commission, Afghanistan Government and his rival team for conspiracy against his team. You brought the points and thanks for posting.

  • munir

    Your writing proves you a soldier, but certainly not a political analyst on Afghanistan, because this piece is contrary to the realities on the ground and increasingly circulated electoral fraud committed in the hands of Karzai and IEC officials appointed by him in favor of Abdullah’s opponent. Karzai has hijacked the polls and thus democratic process in Afghanistan, yet oblivious writers inadvertently support his malicious corrupt visions for Afghanistan. No wonder why Afghanistan has failed!

    • PanjshirEagle

      So you are the political analyst? One question for you Mr. Political Analyst: Why is Abdullah failing everytime and why are everyone (President, UNANAMA, US and millions of AFghans) against him winning the presidency? Explain that with some serious intellectual vigour and not just “conspiracy” theories since you Rich is a soldier and not good enough political analyst for you!

      • Lily Herati

        Ghani has been an american spy for a long time. My uncle went to University with him in beirut, he has been a spy even at a young age. that is why one of the reasons why america wants him as president. Ghani is 100 percent pashtun and supports pashtun causes. Abdullah is only half and supports more farsiwan causes. He fought on behalf of the farsiwans for Amhad Shah Masood. Karzai believes in pashtun supremacy, so he supports Ghani.

        • American for Dr. Abdullah

          Americans who follow the factual news support Dr. Abdullah. He is a hero of the Northern Alliance, and is honest. He will be a leader who will work hard for all the people of Afghanistan and he will be respected by other world leaders. I hope he wins, and that the recount will not be corrupted.

          • PanjEagle

            You just said it “a her of northern alliance”…that’s what he is. He is not a national leader but rather a FACTIONAL leader 😉

        • PanjEagle

          Often people are judged by their company….your uncle hanging out with spies would most likely be another spy…perhaps worse for Iran given your Abdullah bias. So Mr. Analyst, you could not come up with a single sensible reason and changed your name to a female Herati to respond? You and Abdullah types are such losers 🙂

          • Lily Herati

            Are you honestly 12 years old?Only 12 year old call each other losers.
            What does Iran have to do with Abdullah. You hate Iranians eh? Pashtun supremacy I bet. My uncle went to university with him, they didn’t “hang out”.
            I am supposedly Mr. Analyst because girls can’t comment on politics? Thanks for the sexism you bigot.

  • Heravi

    Dear Afsana,
    Dr. Abdullah claims to be Pashtun and from Kandahar (Afghans draw their ethnic heritage through paternal bloodline) and you dismiss his tall claim that he is Farsiwaan 🙂 Are you sure you are helping him? He is a nice man, no doubt but he failed to show the vision and leadership that would compel most Afghans stand behind him. His lifestyle is not that of a leader worthy of leading Afghanistan.
    Without prejudice here is Dr. Abdullah’s resume and his record:
    1980s: Ophthalmologist (eye doctor)
    – Abandoned his profession to join a militia group.
    90s: Press secretary to Ahmad Shah Masud
    – apart from a few pictures with late Masud, what else did he achieve in that period?
    – fueling civil war if he in fact did anything worth nothing.
    2001-2006: Foreign Minister on a quota system of power sharing
    – Signed military technical agreement giving coalition forces total immunity and depriving Afghansitan of customs revenue
    He failed to implement ANY reforms
    – Filled the ministry with cronies and Panjshiris
    – Moral scandals ensued
    2007 onward: Honorably stayed out of government and garnered unsuccessful opposition movement. lost elections and refused to be bribed by Karzai into government. I wish he had stayed this way!
    2014 Elections: Represents the Civil War Ticket alongside Hezbi Islami and Wahdat. The article is quite eloquently summarizing his campaign of total contempt to laws and achievements of the past decade.

    • Lily Herati


      • Mirwais

        There is no need for sources…these are realities everybody has seen with their own eyes.

        • You’re stupid

          LOL! Um you need sources to verify anything. You can’t just write random stuff on the internet and call it fact.

          • PanjEagle

            These are not “random stuff”…. see my reply to “lily”

      • PanjshiriEagle

        Lily Herati (aka Mr. Analyst using faking your fake name and even gender)
        Read Wikipedia bios for both candidates. But if you are from Herat, as you claim to be Herati you would know these basic facts. If in America someone said Geroge Bush was president of the US before Barak Obama, would some ask for a source? Abdullah people are pathetic…:)

    • Mirwais


      • Mirwais

        Well done, Mr. Heravi. You came up with the perfect explanation.

  • Kandahari

    Never read a more bias article than this!

  • Yawaze

    When u talk of democracy,u better leave abdullah out,coz abdullah is a warlord and doesn’t have a faith in the will of people.One of the priorities of next president(Ghani) should be cutting the thread that flies abdullah nd other warlords’ kite.

  • Jamal Love

    Dr. Abdullah is a fraud, He just wants money and power, the economical situation of Afghanistan is under zero and he is looking for power, I hate him and I was so silly that I voted for him.

  • Sonya

    This is just
    journalism in favor of Ghani from the American Media and prespective. The US
    always backed Ashraf Ghani their puppet and Abdullah and his team knows this.
    Abdullah provided evidence of vote rigging and to stand up for the people who are dying. And you want to compare him to the taliban?! wow shame on you.

  • Zapedowski

    This column answers itself. “Ghani, probably got more votes,” it says, acknowledging that no one knows who won the election. Some provinces saw turnout supposedly “triple” in the second round, with more Ghani votes than voting age adults. This is fraud, not democracy. The only democratic solution is a rerun that is free and fair. Too bad Obama and Kerry didn’t have the balls to immediately condemn the fraud and condition further assistance on an immediate, clean election. Add it to the list of this Administration’s moral failures.

    • PanjshiriEagel

      Abdullah one more 94% of some provinces in the first round which resonates with that of Mugabe, and North Korea elections. Fraud was committed in both rounds by both camps. that was anticipated given young instituions and common sense reasons. however, what puts Abdullah apart is that he refused to accept the electoral bodies legitimacy, the constitution and the president of Afghanistan’s commitment to transfer power. He asked for UN role, he got it. he asked for recount, he got it. He asked for US engagement, he got it. Now he still threatened to form a parallel government, attack government offfices and resort to violence. Where I agree with you is that the US and others should have not been intimidated by Abdullah’s empty threats and had called his bluff.

    • Richard Stowell

      My point is that nobody will probably ever know who got more votes. But any election procedure is fraught with risk. Even in stable democracies, you could see wild shifts in results depending on the day of the week the election was held, or what the weather is like. What is important at this point is instilling trust in government institutions. If they are inherently untrustworthy, then Abdullah is doomed to failure even if he became president! He’s in a catch 22.

  • Shoaib

    Trust me, I don’t expect a soldier to become a political analyst. Nice try buddy… Now go home you are drunk…

    • PanjshiriEagle

      trust you? who are you? even a drunken would make a better argument that you “buddy”…perhaps you should go home and take a cold shower “buddy”

  • Sam

    Wow, so biased. Astraf g, is nothing but just another puppet in this game. He’s nothing but a fraud, if he doesn’t win he ll probably just go back to his country (America).

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