THE PLANK OCTOBER 20, 2009
From the conclusion of the Guardian's extremely thorough anatomy of what went wrong with the August 20 election in Afghanistan:
[A] run-off is likely to suffer from many of the same problems as the first vote.
It's worth reading the whole Guardian piece to get a sense of just how botched that first vote. really was. And you have to hope the run-off will at least be a little bitter: now that the international community seems more resolved to fight election fraud, maybe Karzai will be less committed to engaging in it.
But resolve can only do so much. The logistics of running a fair election in Afghanistan--especially with such short notice--appear pretty daunting in light of everything that went wrong on August. To take just one depressing example of ineptitude from the Guardian story:
A few days before the vote I phoned Zekria Barakzai, the IEC's deputy chief electoral officer, to ask what was going to stop double voting. He acknowledged the problem of the electoral roll, but said it would not matter. "It will not be possible because all voters will have to come in person and we will stain their fingers with ink once they have voted. Any irregularities will be obvious to election observers."
The indelible ink was more psychologically important than a real anti-fraud measure – the discovery during the 2006 election that it could be washed off outraged many people. So this time Eide had even gone to the trouble of organising a press conference for the Afghan media months before polling day, in which he demonstrated the new ink and unsuccessfully tried to clean it off with a variety of household detergents.
But the very first thing to fail was the ink. Just 20 minutes after polling had begun, outside a high school in Kabul where Karzai's presidential rival Dr Abdullah Abdullah was voting, people were seen cleaning the ink off their fingers with a popular brand of toilet cleaner.
So, on top of everything else, they still need to get some indelible ink before November 7.