Anna Larson and Noah Coburn

While most Afghan voters have favourable impressions of the voting procedures on election day on 5 April, there are still major concerns about the potential for manipulation and fraud in the counting and vetting processes.

Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC), speaks during a press conference in Kabul 26 April 2014. Afghanistan's presidential election is set for a second-round vote, preliminary results showed. Photo by Shah Marai/Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC), speaks during a press conference in Kabul 26 April 2014. Afghanistan's presidential election is set for a second-round vote, preliminary results showed. Photo by Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images.
  • While most Afghan voters have favourable impressions of the voting procedures on election day on 5 April, there are still major concerns about the potential for manipulation and fraud in the counting and vetting processes.
     
  • In the short term, a political deal brokered by the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, between the two leading candidates might seem attractive, but this will be badly received by the electorate and undermine the reputation of elections in the longer term. Most Afghans now expect a second round in the presidential election.
     
  • The high turnout in the first round is partly explained by the importance that voters attached to provincial elections. Voter dynamics and the turnout will be different in a second round between two candidates. A close race may result in another high turnout.
     
  • How Afghanistan’s electoral bodies, President Karzai and the candidates agree the ground rules for, and the process leading to, a second round and then manage the aftermath of the election will ultimately determine whether Afghans view the process as legitimate or not.
     
  • Significant manipulation of the process would not only deprive individuals of their votes, but could generate grievances among entire groups or communities.
     
  • Afghans are attributing much of the success of election day itself to the Independent Election Commission and Afghan National Security Forces.
     
  • New public confidence in these institutions has the potential to alter the dynamics of negotiations with the Taliban as successful elections could strengthen the moral and political authority of the incoming government. The window of opportunity in which to use this authority, however, will be short-lived.
     
  • The incoming president’s public legitimacy will depend not only on the way in which he was elected but also on what he is able to achieve in the first few months in office, including whether he can conclude the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States and secure its ratification.
     
  • The interlinking of the presidential and provincial polls means that the way in which Afghans view the Provincial Council election process will affect the perceived legitimacy of the new government.
     
  • The international community should resist the temptation to support a coalition deal that obviates a second round. This might expedite the process of establishing a new government in the short term but would undermine the future electoral process. Only in the case of extreme fraud and/or violence disrupting a run-off should any alternative be considered to a second round.