Rigging the Vote in Afghanistan


You can tell political institutions in Afghanistan are week, since a lot of the vote fraud seems to have been extraordinarily crude. For example, the leadership of the Bariz tribe in Southern Afghanistan decided shortly before election day in Afghanistan to endorse Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai’s main opponent in the elections. And then:

Instead, aides to Mr. Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali — the leader of the Kandahar provincial council and the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan — detained the governor of Shorbak, Delaga Bariz, and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election day. The ballot boxes were taken to Shorbak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots.

At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai.

Realistically, I can’t imagine the US government actually doing anything about this. The fact of the matter is that the replacement of the Pashto Hamid Karzai with the Tajik Abdullah Abdullah would be a disaster for our strategy in Afghanistan. But I think there’s a lesson here about America’s tendency toward geopolitical self-righteousness. When Russia backs pro-Russian political leaders in countries that are important to Russia (Georgia, Ukraine, etc.) even when they commit election fraud, the tendency is for the United States to enter an orgy of moralistic denunciations. But we, too, have our moments in which we feel strategic interests compel us to keep backing our favorite horse even if he commits some election fraud. We don’t need to embrace it when other countries do it, but it’s worth having some humility.