Afghan Election Could be a Signal of Positive ChangeAfghanistan’s election went much better then anticipated yesterday, featuring a 58 percent turnout, with approximately seven million out of a total of 12 million eligible voters participating. This was much better then the 2009 election in which only 4.5 million (37 percent) of eligible voters participated and widespread violence took place throughout the country.
The success of yesterday’s election is testament to the progress the country has made since the U.S. led 2001 invasion in which the Taliban was ousted. Afghan security forces were able to mobilize 350,000 personnel for the election; providing security for voters around the country and protecting the capital, Kabul.
According to Interior Minister Umer Daudzai, four civilians, nine policemen, seven soldiers and 89 Taliban fighters were killed during the last 24 hours. The civilian and police/military casualty numbers are similar to those provided by the Afghan government in the 2009 election in which eight Afghan soldiers, nine police officers and nine civilians lost there lives. While no Taliban death totals were released by the Afghan government after the 2009 elections, it is widely accepted that a large number of militants were killed.
While civilian and police casualties in yesterday’s election were relatively similar to those experienced in 2009, the level of widespread violence was much less then in the previous election which many hailed as the most violent day the country had experienced since the 2001 U.S. invasion.
To win, one of the eight candidates must manage to secure more then 50 percent of the vote. Should this fail to happen, the two leading candidates will be compete in a run-off election on May 28. The top candidates so far appear to be former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, and Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister.
While election day fatalities remained relatively similar to the 2009 election, the voter turnout by itself serves as evidence of the tremendous progress the Afghan people have made since the removal of the Taliban. The people of Afghanistan have taken their country back from those who wanted to keep the nation from integrating into globalizations core and now they, not the Taliban, will determine the future of Afghanistan. However, this will depend on the new president’s ability to maintain order throughout Afghanistan. Should they fail in this, Afghanistan may find itself in the same condition it was pre 2001; a lawless state lacking infrastructure in which widespread poverty and violence was the norm.
Whoever the winner of the election/elections may be, it will be crucial that they make decisions which will ensure Afghanistan continues to develop. With the majority of foreign troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of the year, the Afghan government needs to ensure that the country’s security forces are capable of maintaining rule of law and providing security to Afghans throughout the country before asking for the complete withdrawal of U.S. personnel. This will be absolutely essential if the Afghan government is to avoid negating all the progress the country has made since the removal of the Taliban.