Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

Monitoring Afghanistan's 2009 Presidential Election: How the Withdrawal of International Aid Impeded Democratic Progress

Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

Monitoring Afghanistan's 2009 Presidential Election: How the Withdrawal of International Aid Impeded Democratic Progress

Article excerpt

"Recognising the courage and determination of Afghans who, by defying violent extremism and hardship, have laid the foundations for a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous state based on the principles of Islam."1


On November 2, 2009, Afghan election officials declared incumbent President Hamid Karzai the winner of the 2009 presidential election, entitling him to another five-year term in office.2 The race finally came to a close months after the election was held on August 20, 2009.3 The result of the election was announced just one day after Karzai's challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the runoff election that was scheduled for November 7, 2009.4 Abdullah dropped out of the race because he thought that the election would continue to be marred with fraud and that the vote would be unfair.5

The first full tally of the August 20 election revealed that Karzai won 54.6% of the votes, giving him enough votes to claim the vic- tory.6 After investigating reports of fraud at several thousand polling stations, however, it became clear that Karzai did not actually claim a majority of the votes.7 As a result, a runoff election was scheduled to take place between Karzai and Abdullah, who had obtained the second largest share of the votes at 27.7%.8 When Abdullah dropped out of the race on November 1, 2009, election officials canceled the runoff election.9

Throughout the electoral process, fraud and manipulation were rampant.10 More Afghans registered to vote than were eligible to vote.11 Yet less than 30% of eligible voters actually voted.12 Ballot box stuffing occurred at polling stations across the country.13 "Ghost polling sites" reported polling results even though they never opened.14 Proxy voting, in which men cast votes on behalf of female relatives, was also rampant throughout the election.15 Furthermore, some areas of the country were so dangerous that voting centers could not open.16 Twenty-seven Afghans were killed as a result of such election day violence.17 Additionally, President Karzai appointed the members of the Independent Election Committee (IEC), the group responsible for administering the election, without legislative oversight.18

The 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan was the second democratic election in the nation's history, and the first election primarily organized by the country itself.19 Afghanistan's ability to produce a free and fair election was critical to perceptions of legitimacy in its newly created democracy.20 Afghanistan's ultimate goal, which is to achieve peace and stability within the nation, depends upon the country's ability to maintain free and fair elections. 21 This is especially important while the democracy is still in its formative years and its institutions are just beginning to take shape.22

Recognizing the significance of Afghanistan's second democratic election, observers monitored the entire election process to ensure the legitimacy of election results and promote democracy within the country.23 International election observers monitor democratic elections around the world to enhance the legitimacy of elections. 24 Election monitoring is intended to serve the dual purposes of deterring people from manipulating elections and providing recommendations on how to improve the electoral process in the future.25

Despite Afghanistan's commitment to establishing a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous state, the 2009 presidential election, characterized by extreme violence and fraud, illustrates that Afghanistan has not developed the institutional competence to enforce many of the laws that have been established to safeguard its democratic institutions. Therefore, the United Nations and the international community must maintain active involvement in Afghanistan to ensure that its laws are enforced and its own institutional competence is developed. Part I of this Note will provide background on how democracy was established in Afghanistan. …

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