By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - After much debate and two postponements, presidential polls will be held in Afghanistan on October 9. However, the parliamentary election - which has also been deferred twice - will be held next April. While the deferment of parliamentary elections has been widely welcomed, the decision to press ahead with the presidential poll when the situation in the country is far from conducive for any elections has evoked a mixed response.
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Though most of the recent spurt in election-linked violence has been blamed on the Taliban, there is evidence that warlords and their militias are responsible for much of the instability and violence outside Kabul. Militias loyal to General Rashid Dostum and General Atta Mohammed dominate the politics of the north. In a recent interview, President Hamad Karzai admitted that the private militias posed a greater threat to Afghanistan's security and dismissed the threat from the Taliban as "exaggerated".
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The authority of the Karzai government is limited to Kabul. A plan to disarm the 100,000-strong militias controlled by warlords before the election is floundering badly, with only an estimated 10,000 having agreed to leave the militias and only 7,000 weapons handed in. Voter intimidation will be high under such conditions.
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The rush to hold the presidential elections in Afghanistan in October has to do with the fact that the United States goes to the polls in November. President George W Bush, who has nothing to hold up as achievements on the foreign-policy front, is hoping to present the Afghanistan election, the country's "return to democracy", as a major accomplishment of his administration.
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However, democracy is not just about holding elections. It is as much about ensuring that people can vote without fear, about building democratic institutions and so on. But Bush is determined to make the Afghans vote in October and that is all that seems to matter.
President Photo Op and his minions don't give a shit if Afghanistan (or Iraq for that matter) is successful, or acheives democracy. All they care about is that it looks as if it's working until the elections. Rat Bastids.