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Editorial: Shambolic exercise

Although the prospects of resuming peace talks to end the 18-year conflict give war-weary Afghans a sense of relief, the highly disputed presidential election only takes it away. It’s been two months since the presidential election was conducted but the electoral management bodies haven’t been able to announce the preliminary results or handle the necessary affairs properly. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the government have only made a mockery of themselves by holding an exercise where 900,000 votes went missing almost 40 days after the election and thousands of others eliminated for one reason or another. This is while there are another 300,000 disputed votes in the picture as CEO Abdullah Abdullah accuses the country’s election commission of including those questionable votes in favor of President Ashraf Ghani, his rival candidate.

Both Ghani and Abdullah are partners in the incumbent coalition government brokered by the US when a similar disputed election between the two went to a stalemate in 2014. The current power dispute is dividing the country at its best and causing more complications for Afghans. Thousands of Abdullah’s supporters marched to a roundabout behind the presidential palace on Friday morning, demanding fraudulent votes be thrown out. Meanwhile, on the eve of these large protests, Ghani went to Bagram Air Field to receive US President Donald Trump, who paid a brief surprise visit to US troops stationed there. Abdullah not being invited has raised some questions because these power-sharing leaders had been together in such matters, acted as equals and were regarded as such in the past. People suspect that there are ulterior reasons behind him not being invited – perhaps Trump made a veiled endorsement of being in favor of Ghani’s reelection as president for another five-year term.

Amidst all this, the vote recount and audit process by IEC have been completed in 27 provinces but the process could not be kicked off in the remaining seven provinces due to protests by the supporters of some election teams, especially Abdullah’s. Meanwhile, the IEC has said that it would soon announce the preliminary results of the presidential election without recounting the votes of seven problematic provinces. The status quo shows the democratic process is being aborted in Afghanistan and it’s shocking that vote-hatching for two months hasn’t produced a president so far. If this situation goes on, it’s an utter recipe for long-term crisis and ultimate violence and bloodshed. A viable peace will remain elusive because it’s not just the Taliban or insurgents the government has to come to peace with but it itself needs peace and political stability within. The government has become fragile to an extent that it cannot uphold democratic values properly and has rendered the election to be yet another shambolic exercise – only because the leaders at the helm are not willing to give power to the people as part of democracy but want power for themselves.

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