Briefing Paper

Carina Perelli and Scott Smith

The 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan will be marked by fraud, violence and inconsistency. Since a second round is likely, political turbulence, particularly if the results are contested, may continue until mid-2014 or beyond.

Looking Beyond 2014: Elections in Afghanistan’s Evolving Political Context - See more at: http://chathamhouse-production.torchboxapps.com/node/6827/draft#sthash.RNx9jTml.dpufPhoto by toos/iStock.

Summary points:

  • The 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan will be marked by fraud, violence and inconsistency. Since a second round is likely, political turbulence, particularly if the results are contested, may continue until mid-2014 or beyond.
     
  • The elections are, at a minimum, a conflict management mechanism. Judgments as to what is ‘legitimate’ and ‘credible’ need to be made not just from a technical perspective.
     
  • The key issue will be the degree to which irregularities and the subsequent response affect the legitimacy of the result. Managing expectations of different sets of actors is crucial but extremely challenging.
     
  • The international community will face the dilemma of whether and how to intervene and will have to contend with multiple pressure points, including Afghan and domestic lobbies.
     
  • The options for intervening are more limited than in the past. Experience suggests that a high degree of coherence by international actors, anchored in respect for Afghan and international law, is critical to ensuring a positive influence.
     
  • To anticipate and manage these problems, it is essential to learn from previous elections, and to view these elections not just as a one-off event but as part of a longer-term process in Afghanistan’s political evolution.