Many opposing views and declarations on the outcome of the Afghan elections have flooded blogs and newspapers recently. It is quite difficult to make up one’s mind and to say whether these elections have confirmed Karzai or Abdullah’s victory, whether they have been fair or unfair, or whether they have revealed the success or the failure of the Taliban’s terror campaign.

The European parliamentary observer mission, led by French MEP Philippe Morillon, seemed to be somewhat pleased with the way the elections had taken place, stating that the process was “good and fair” although “not free everywhere” because of the terror threats (such as cutting off the fingers of those who had voted).

The FEFA (Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan) has been more critical than the EU mission and has highlighted numerous incidences of fraud, violent threats, and a low voter turnout (especially from women). Special correspondents for European newspapers also had diverging views on the participation rate of women or the security at poll stations (‘massive participation’ for Le Figaro versus ‘disproportionate intimidations’ for the New York Times), but all seemed to agree that fraud gave the advantage (or disadvantage) to the two candidates.

So what conclusions can we draw from all this?

Unclear results means instability – Even if he’s announced as the winner, President Karzai will have undoubtedly lost legitimacy. To what extent will he be able to run this country of warlords and rival ethnic groups without strong popular support?

The Taliban can’t be ignored – Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the intimidation threats have shown that the US and ISAF forces (Germany, UK, Canada) have never managed to defeat the Taliban. As the Asian Times points out, “some form of reconciliation with the Taliban is the only way in which the insurgency can be defeated,” and this is in fact a reality that the US and the UK have started to acknowledge.

US and EU credibility at stake – The US and the EU remained cautious in their conclusions on the elections as a post-electoral dispute would be a failure scenario for the US and the ISAF forces. As UN officials comments for the Guardian, “if the international community say it is all wonderful, they lose further credibility and are associated with an illegitimate government. And if they say it was fraud then their publics will say ‘why are we there then?’ Neither way is it a good result for Afghanistan.”

This probably explains the cautious optimism of Mr Morillon who has (unintentionally) tried to find a way to get everyone in agreement when he described the elections as a “victory of the Afghan people”. Now there’s a diplomatic way of putting it…

– Maxime

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