There seems to be a general sigh of relief in western capitals that President Karzai has agreed to a second round for the Afghan elections on November 7th. But my reaction was different. The whole things looks increasingly absurd to me. Do we really believe that the second round is going to be so much cleaner than the first round? Do we really think that – in the war-torn areas of Helmand – thousands of people are now going to have the confidence to turn out to vote, when they were too intimidated to do so the first time around? Above all, do we really think that the Afghans are going to feel terribly different about the continuation of President Karzai’s rule, just because there has been a second round of voting?
But then I don’t think this decision to go to a second round really has much to do with what the Afghans think. It is all about making western governments feel more comfortable. We already know that our efforts to ram the square peg of democracy into the round hole of Afghan society are in serious trouble. President Obama has said that Afghanistan is not going to be a “Jeffersonian democracy”. But the first round of elections were so flawed, that we need something that looks just a little better. Which would be fine – except that it is very likely that lots of people are going to die – western soldiers and Afghan voters – in trying to pretty up “Afghan democracy”. Read more