Beyond Demonstration Elections IV

Well. The “preliminary” results are in. And it’s getting pretty close to official. With 22,413 polling stations reporting and 95.1 percent of the votes counted, “Afghan President Hamid Karzai is sure of victory in his country’s historic presidential poll,” Reuters is reporting. All in all, a great day for Karzai. And a great day “for his enthusiastic backers in the White House,” as the editorial voice of The Guardian reminds us, the President-elect “widely seen as Washington’s man,” the American regime that backs him beset with its own problems—not the least of which is next Tuesday’s elections in the States, and, of course, the “deepening mayhem in Iraq.” (“Mr. Karzai’s Moment,” Oct. 25.)

Whether you want to slice Afghanistan’s October 9 election results into a pie diagram (and note that of the three slices named here who didn’t win, each was persuaded to drop his boycott of the election after meeting with the American Ambassador, a.k.a. “The Viceroy,” Zalmay Khalilzad), view the results like a horse race (Ms. Massooda Jalal, the lone woman in the field, now holds sixth place overall—and the Las Vegas bookies shied away from her anyway), view them in the same order they appeared on the ballot (the winner wasn’t even listed first on the ballot form—though listing his name second did just as fine), or check the total voter turnout broken down according to gender, province, or even the out-of-country vote (Karzai did equally well in Pakistan as he did in Miami-Dade County, Florida, it appears)—damned if the President of the Transitional Administration, the guy chosen by the Americans almost three years ago, even before the ink on the Bonn Agreement in early December, 2001, had dried, didn’t pull off a victory.

Go figure.

The cult of Hamid Karzai is already in the works—and has been for quite some time.

Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the cult that has steadily been built up around Afghanistan since the first American bombs and cruise missiles began to detonate in October, 2001, is a cult of the invasion, occupation, and subsequent election processes themselves, the cult of nation-building,” the cult of the redemptive power of American arms andvalues,” with Karzai now identified as the “country’s first democratically elected president,” and the election referred to as a “landmark” so often together, it seems that these words are inseparable, not two words but one word only?

Not in Afghanistan, of course. For the time being, how things look inside Afghanistan doesn’t matter. But on the outside. Among the “international community.” And back in the States in particular, where Karzai’s “win could boost Afghanistan’s main sponsor, President George Bush, in his own bid for re-election on 2 November.” (“Karzai’s Main Rival Admits Defeat in Presidential Race,” The Independent, Oct. 25.)

(Quick aside. Compare this week’s relatively neat wrap-up to the demonstration election just staged in Afghanistan to the slightly larger problems facing the regime in Washington, desperate as it is to stage something similar in Iraq, perhaps early next year. No matter how hard the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, the Pakistani Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, and his advisor to the Electoral Commission, Carlos Valenzuela (by the way, the Electoral Commission is typically referred to as the independent in the official literature), work to line up support for Iraqi national elections within something like the next 100 days—How would you like to have their job?—the armed resistance to the American occupation remains far too great, and the solidarity with the resistance throughout the “Arab areas” of Iraq far too conscious, for even the most fraudulent of elections to be staged. And last week, the Sunni Committee of Muslim Scholars pledged to call a boycott of any election held after an American pacification campaign of the major Sunni centers of resistance. “There is a concern with respect primarily to civilian casualties which are taking place and the impact it could have for the political process,” this morning’s Los Angeles Times quoted a statement made yesterday by Ashraf Jehangir Qazi in Baghdad. “The elections need to not only take place on time, but they’ve got to be credible, comprehensive and everywhere….It would not be a positive development if elections were not held in a significant part of the country or a significant part of the population were not able to participate.” (“U.N. Envoy Warns Against U.S. Attack on Fallouja,” Oct. 25.) As best I can tell, LATimes appears to be the only newspaper to have reported Qazi’s important statement. Hearing them could not have made the Americans happy.)

(Another quick aside to the first quick aside. If you like the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq, take a guess at what the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan calls the group it named to investigate challenges to the probity of the election process? The Impartial Panel of International Experts. They must think the subjects in the neocolonies are abject simpletons. One thing is certain: The subjects in the metropolitan centers sure are.)

“Karzai’s victory is a central part of the Bush administration’s plan for the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Victory would make Karzai Afghanistan’s first popularly chosen leader after a quarter century of war and give him a five-year term, in which he has pledged to raise citizens’ pitiful living standards,” was how Associated Press put it. “It could also provide a foreign policy boost to Afghanistan’s main sponsor, U.S. President George W. Bush, in his own bid for re-election on Nov. 2.” While in the estimation of the New York Times: “The election was widely regarded as remarkably peaceful, despite incidents of violence and threats from insurgents loyal to the ousted Taliban rule. Elections observers from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who fielded barely 122 international observers around the country, have described the election as an ‘orderly and transparent process’.”

All of this is true—at least back in the States and among those organs of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that have invested so heavily in staging this demonstration election.

Within Afghanistan itself, however, very few people really believe the accuracy of the judgments that I’ve just been quoting.

And to be perfectly honest with you, the reporters themselves, in each of the last three cases, read as if they don’t believe a word of it, either.

One fraud down. (For the time being. Anyway.)

And how many others to follow?

Demonstration Elections: U.S.-Staged Elections in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and El Salvador, Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead (South End Press, 1984)

Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions, December 5, 2001 (a.k.a. Bonn Agreement)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB)

Karzai assured of victory in Afghan election,” Associated Press, October 25, 2004
Karzai Win Assured as Afghan Poll Count Winds Up,” Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters, October 25, 2004
Mr. Karzai’s Moment,” The Guardian, October 25, 2004
Karzai’s Main Rival Admits Defeat in Presidential Race,” Genevieve Roberts, The Independent, October 25, 2004
Karzai on the Brink of Victory,” Paul Watson and Wesal Zaman, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2004
Karzai Effectively Wins Afghan Vote as Count Nears End,” Carlotta Gall, New York Times, October 25, 2004
Karzai Is Clear Winner, Afghan Vote Results Show,” Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, October 25, 2004

U.N. Envoy Warns Against U.S. Attack on Fallouja,” Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 25, 2004

Beyond Demonstration Elections I, October 11, 2004
Beyond Demonstration Elections II, ZNet Blogs, October 13, 2004
Beyond Demonstration Elections III, Znet Blogs, October 14, 2004

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