April 20, 2014

Presidential Elections in Afghanistan — the First Stage Is Complete

April 5, 2014 in very difficult conditions in Afghanistan were held presidential and municipal elections. The country's authorities and the international community have recognized their success.

As stated by the Chairman of the National Independent Electoral Commission Yu.Nuristani, the voter turnout was about 58 %, — about 7 million out of the 12 million voters.

According to preliminary data, in the second round of elections will compete:

  • Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, for whom voted approximately 41.9 % of voters;
  • Ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who got 37.5 %;
  • Former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul who received 9.8 % of votes.

None of the other five candidates won six or more percent.

On the eve of the elections in the country were taken unprecedented security measures. For example, to maintain order in the elections were involved 350.000 military servicemen and law enforcement officers, around all polling stations of the country were established “safety rings”, and all the roads to Kabul were blocked by checkpoints. Nevertheless, during the terrorist attacks on the voting day, 20 people were killed and 43 people were injured, mostly the military and the Police.

Note: Afghan movement “Taliban” and Pakistani “Tehreek-e-Taliban-e Pakistan” concluded an agreement on organization of joint armed raids to the territory of Afghanistan. The reason for such a step was the agreement of the Pakistani Taliban with the authorities of Islamabad on ceasefire. Experts believe that this respite is urgently needed by Pakistani Taliban to save its military camps in the tribal region of North Waziristan, and to concentrate all efforts on Afghanistan.

In North Waziristan March 26, 2014 took place the first round of talks between the Pakistani authorities and representatives of the Taliban. It is assumed that the result of these meetings will be a total cease-fire and normalization of the situation in the region. At the same time, the Afghan “Taliban” intensified terrorist activities throughout Afghanistan to disrupt the scheduled for April 5 presidential elections.

Under Afghan law, to win the presidential election, a candidate must receive 50 % plus one vote. Despite the fact that the vote count has not yet been completed, preliminary results confirm the forecasts of experts about the need for a second round of elections.

The official vote count should end by April 20. If none of the candidates is able to get the needed for winning 50 % plus one vote, May 28 in Afghanistan will be held the second round of the presidential elections.

The main factor that can change the results of the round of elections which has already taken place, may be considering allegations of violations of the electoral law. In particular, to date, the number of complaints has reached 3 thousand, at this, in response to some of them have already been taken administrative measures against violators. To the category of fatal and serious violations observers attributed the lack of ballots, in many places they had ended by mid-afternoon.

All three candidates for a long time have occupied the leading positions in different Cabinets of the current President Hamid Karzai and represent powerful forces

Now about the winners. All three candidates for a long time have occupied the leading positions in different Cabinets of the current President Hamid Karzai and represent powerful forces. All three are known as supporters of the agreement with the USA on “strategic partnership” which provides for further stay of the American armed forces contingent in the territory of the country, but in a reduced format. Instead of the current approximately 35 thousand military servicemen there will remain 10-11 thousand, but this hardly changes anything, as the American presence in Afghanistan will continue.


Let us have a closer look at each of the winners.


Dr. Abdullah Abdullah — a supporter of Islamic democracy, the leader of the opposition movement “National Coalition of Afghanistan.”

Abdullah Abdullah is of mixed Pashtun and Tajik ethnicity. Former foreign minister and candidate for the 2014 elections
Abdullah Abdullah is of mixed Pashtun and Tajik ethnicity. Former foreign minister and candidate for the 2014 elections


Former Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

Abdullah Abdullah was born in 1959 in Kabul into the family of father-Pashtun and mother — a Tajik woman. His father, Gholam Mahauddin Khan Zamriyani, was a senator from Kandahar province in the National Council of the last convocation during the reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah.

Abdullah Abdullah got a secondary education in the “Nadir” gymnasium in Kabul. In 1977 he entered the Kabul Medical Institute and graduated in 1984. For a year he worked as a doctor in Kabul Eye Hospital “Nur”. At the end of the same year went to Pakistan, where he worked in one of the hospitals that provide medical services to Afghan refugees.

Soon Abdullah Abdullah returned home and quickly found himself in the ranks of the Mujahedeen in Panjshir under the command of Ahmad Shah Massoud, where he won the confidence of the latter.

In 1992-1996, after the Mujahedeens' coming to power in Kabul and formation of the interim government, in which Ahmad Shah Massoud was appointed Minister of Defense, Dr. Abdullah was appointed the Head of the Office and an official representative of the Minister of Defense.

With the Taliban's coming to power and creation of the “Northern Alliance” in the north of Afghanistan, in the period from 1996 to 2001, Abdullah was Deputy and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, in Burhanuddin Rabbani's government. During these years he had played the main role in ensuring Rabbani's government's external relations with the international community.

Despite the fact that Rabbani's government controlled less than 10 percent of the country, Afghanistan had its own seat at the UN and had its representation offices in many countries. After the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud in 2001 and during the war with the Taliban, Dr. Abdullah was the official representative of the Northern Alliance in international organizations.

According to the Bonn Agreements, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of the interim administration of Hamid Karzai, and retained this post in the transitional government. However, after the elections in October 2004, he was not in Hamid Karzai's elected Cabinet and retired from official activities by joining the political opposition, where he created a coalition called “Changes and Hopes”.

During the second presidential elections in August 2009 Abdullah was Hamid Karzai's main rival. Then none of the candidates got enough votes to win, and the Election Commission announced Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah rivals in the second round of elections. However, Abdullah refused to participate in the further struggle, citing the fact that the elections were not transparent. As a result, the Election Commission announced Hamid Karzai the winner.

The main slogan of Dr. Abdullah in the last elections was the establishment of a parliamentary system. He called presidential system the reason for centralization of power and corruption in government bodies. He emphasized that in case he came to power, he would make Constitutional changes.

After the 2009 elections, the political bloc “Changes and Hopes” changed its name to “National Coalition”, after which it was joined by some political groups and individual politicians. Until the founding of the “National Front”, which included three parties: “The Islamic Society of Afghanistan,” “Islamic national unity” and “National Islamic Movement”, the “National Coalition” had remained the largest political formation of the systemic opposition.

In the elections of 2014, Abdullah was supported by the “Islamic Party” led by Abdul Hadi Argandivala, “Islamic National Unity” party, the main part of the “Jamiat-e Islami” party, a few other organizations, as well as by a number of influential political figures.

But he is Tajik and Pashtuns consider his figure unacceptable.

Dr. Abdullah is married and has three daughters and one son. Apart from Dari, he perfectly well speaks Pashto, English and Arabic.


In contrast, another favorite of the presidential elections Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is a Pashtun from Ahmadzai tribe.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is a Pashtun from Ahmadzai tribe
Suicide bombers attacked on Tuesday, March 25 the house of candidate for presidency, former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai


Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was born in 1953 in the Province of Logar. He got his education at the American University of Beirut, Columbia University of the USA and holds a degree of Doctor of Science in anthropology. A.G.Ahmadzay is considered one of the main developers of the plan of “afghanization” of security in the government of Hamid Karzai.

Ahmadzai spent many years working as an analyst and expert on Afghanistan at the World Bank. He also worked at Johns Hopkins University in the USA and Aarhus University in Denmark.

In October 2001, he was appointed Advisor to the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan Ahzar Ibrahimi, but a few months later Ahmadzai became a Senior Adviser to Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. At the same time he also worked as Head of the Office for the coordination of international assistance to Afghanistan.

From June 2002 to December 2004 Ahmadzai was Acting Minister of Finance in the Cabinet of the Transitional Government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. During this period he began the monetary and financial reform and made ​​some progress in this sphere, but then his reformist activity falls under harsh criticism of political circles of the country.

After the 2004 presidential elections, Ahmadzai was not part of the elected government and was appointed Rector of Kabul University. After two years in this position he resigned and did not occupy any official government positions.

In 2006 Ahmadzai's candidacy was officially put forward by Afghanistan for the post of the successor of Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General, but he lost to the current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In the presidential elections of 2009, competing with the current president, Hamid Karzai, he did not win the required number of votes. In 2010, the American magazine Foreign Policy, included him into its annual list of global thinkers (50th place), and the British magazine Prospect gave him second place in the similar list.

During the second period of his presidency Karzai appointed Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai head of the program for transferring responsibility for security from foreign forces to the internal security forces. It is expected that this program will have been completed before the end of this year, by the time of withdrawal of the main parts of the International Coalition Forces from Afghanistan.

Thanks to the experience of his work at the World Bank and a number of North American institutions, Ghani has close ties with Washington. Foreign and Afghan media write about him as “America's pet”, and his victory in the current presidential election would be met with great enthusiasm in the West.

But the desire of the West and the Afghan elites' requirements diverge much more than it may seem at first glance. Ghani in the eyes of the Western establishment certainly looks attractive because of his education, academic degrees and manners. But the number of foreign politicians, who know the situation “from within” and understand what tools should use Afghanistan's president, are quite cautious about technocrat Ghani.

If Ghani, president expectedly weak, wins, it will mean that Afghanistan will remain a set of provinces dominated by local leaders — “field commanders”, and the president in Kabul — no more than the “official figure” performing representative functions. In this scenario, his election will not serve the interests of the society and will ensure neither stability nor peace for Afghanistan.


It is because of these reasons the bowl of voters' sympathies could swing toward another Pashtun, MD Zalmay Rasul, who held several ministerial posts in the government of Hamid Karzai.

MD Zalmai Rassoul: in Afghanistan there is the freest press in the region
MD Zalmai Rassoul: in Afghanistan there is the freest press in the region

Doctor of Medicine Zalmai Rassoul

Zalmai Rassoul was born in 1943 in Kabul and is an ethnic Pashtun from the tribe Mohammadzai. Zalmai Rassoul is fluent in Dari, Pashto, French, English and Italian. A bit worse is his command of Arabic.

He received his medical education and doctorate in France.

Zalmai Rassoul was one of the first participants of the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, held in 2001 in Germany which ended in the creation of the interim government in Afghanistan. He was among those who came to Kabul with Hamid Karzai after the fall of the Taliban regime.

In 2002, after the new government's coming to power, Hamid Karzai put forward Rassoul's candidacy for Minister of Civil Aviation, which was unanimously approved by the Cabinet. After a short time Zalmai Rassoul was appointed Adviser to the President of Afghanistan on security issues and remained in this position until 2010. His duties, in particular, included “coordination of activity in security sphere and foreign policy”.

In January 2010, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, after his re-election, introduced Zalmay Rassoul to the parliament of the country as a candidate for the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his candidacy was approved by a majority vote of the members of the lower house of the parliament.

The last 12 years, Mr. Rassoul was among the close to Hamid Karzai individuals in the country's leadership, and accompanied him during most of important foreign trips.

The outgoing President Hamid Karzai has not mentioned whom he supports in the elections, but it is believed that it is Rassoul, because it was in his favor that Karzai's younger brother — Qayyum withdrew his candidacy. However, this is not an indicator of trust, in Afghanistan among the political elite nobody trusts nobody. It is rather an indicator of a strange and paradoxical symbiosis of interests of Western companies involved in the process of the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and the “new Taliban” drug-Emirs receiving money for the convoy of the American military cargo. For the latter, the presence of Western troops has created favorable conditions when opium poppy plantations have greatly expanded and incomes increased. They see Rassoul as a person capable to ensure stability of their further existence. Without any reforms, and most importantly, without redistribution of property.

According to experts, before the new head of the Afghanistan are extremely difficult tasks. First of all, solution to the problem of internal security, on which depends the survival of the current government. The President should as soon as possible definitively determine the prospects of foreign troops' staying in the country after 2014. Note that all three favorites have stated that in case of victory they are ready to sign an agreement with the USA on security cooperation that will allow to continue the strategic cooperation between the two countries and, in particular, to solve the issue of the stay of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

As yet the incumbent president Hamid Karzai
As yet the incumbent president Hamid Karzai has presented new demands to the bilateral agreement on security with the U.S. If America does not help the Afghan authorities in negotiations with the Taliban, does not frees 17 Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo and does not forbade his soldiers to break into the homes of peaceful citizens, he did not sign the document. In respond Washington has threatened to full withdrawal in 2014


The current Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, as you know, categorically refused to sign a security agreement with the United States providing for the extension of the presence of the U.S. military contingent in the country. Such a “principle” position is no more than a game aimed at keeping his reputation unblemished for subsequent political games. Meanwhile, it should be taken into account:

Firstly, the bilateral security agreement, providing for further U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which will soon be followed by signing of the already prepared agreement on cooperation of Afghanistan and NATO, will be signed by the new president, regardless of who will become one. So basically, no conclusion is expected, it is more appropriate to talk about the transformation of the contingent, with reduction of the number of troops and increase of the number of employees of private military companies.

Secondly, today in Afghanistan is concentrated two-thirds of the world's heroin production.

A farmer at work on the poppy plantation.

Afghan farmers harvested opium poppy to get latex that is used to manufacture heroin
Afghan farmers harvested opium poppy to get latex that is used to manufacture heroin


75-80 % of this business is owned by the Afghan elite, headed by Karzai and appointed by him provincial governors. And no one either here in Kabul or in the West is going to change anything. This means that Afghanistan, regardless of the results of the presidential elections, will remain the center of world production of opiates and heroin. For Russia, Iran, Western Europe this is a real danger.

Thirdly, between the official Kabul and the “Taliban” has long been achieved some informal agreements. Bellicose rhetoric, mutual curses and threats, no formal negotiations must not be misleading. Ideological component in the activities of “Taliban” is getting reduced, all the slogans about the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, “liberation march to the north” are giving way to “domestic issues”, such as the redistribution of shares in the drug trade and repartition of channels of access to financial flows going from the West and from international organizations for “reconstruction and building of democracy”.

The ones who bear the blame, as a result of these agreements, will be the located on the territory of Afghanistan fighters from post-Soviet Central Asia, Salafists of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, members of “Hizb ut-Tahrir” and “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”. In the existing balance between Kabul and “Taliban”, there is simply no place for them, and that is why they begin to prepare to return home, and this will create a real threat to the internal stability directly to CSTO members — Ashgabat and Tashkent. These countries' central authorities’ being ready to reject the coming threat is clearly questionable.

And finally, as Western analysts believe, the key to Afghanistan's security does not lie in the plane of the imitation of democracy but in economic development of the country. Today, real contribution to peace building and economic development of Afghanistan is made by China, India, Iran, partly Russia.

The outgoing President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, positioning himself as the guarantor of stability of the current system, is not going to go away too far from power. And if he is not constitutionally eligible to run for a third term, no laws can prevent him and his clan from being a “shadow” president. Just remember that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar has appointed “shadow” governors in 32 out of 34 Afghanistan's provinces, and these “appointees” quite normally until today coexist with official “president's” governors. And often they have a joint business, primarily in the drug trade. This, albeit fragile, but balance that creates the illusion of “progress towards stability and development of Afghanistan”, completely satisfies both local authorities and the Taliban.

In his interview, which can be regarded as a model of the eastern guile, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Russia Azizullah Karzai about political future of Karzai said, “The current Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is the founder of the democratic system in Afghanistan. Under his leadership, a constitution was adopted, which, due to its democratic content, is one of the best of the basic laws in the region. The Afghani people are very grateful to the President for everything he has done for preserving and protection of the freedom, independence, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Afghanistan, the people's welfare. He has a great leadership experience that can be useful to the new president. Of course, he will not run the country, but he can share his experience and give necessary advice to solve different problems”.

So, the presidential elections in Afghanistan show that no matter who becomes the president, Afghanistan will remain the main source of instability for the whole region, a serious threat to regional and international security

The nearest future of Afghanistan, in principle, is obvious. The current Afghan authorities are unlikely to be able to keep the situation in their own hands. Americans and Europeans' interest in the region is weakening. Against this background, quite real look forecasts about the return to power of the movement “Taliban”. In such conditions are possible new border conflicts and increase of the flow of drugs from Afghanistan to the West. Currently, hundreds of Islamist militants from Central Asian countries are fighting in Syria. Analysts believe that sooner or later they will come back home and try to create an Islamic state in the region. Equally dangerous are in these countries radical religious extremist movements.

So, the presidential elections in Afghanistan show that no matter who becomes the president, Afghanistan will remain the main source of instability for the whole region, a serious threat to regional and international security.