As if the reports of massive voter fraud and the government’s largely unsuccessful attempt at controlling information harmful to the regime with censorship weren’t enough to draw comparisons between yesterday’s Afghan vote and June’s vote in neighboring Iran, we now have another similarity: both sides are claiming victory.
The two major candidates, incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his top rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, insist they won the election (such as it was) outright and that no runoff vote would be needed. The actual results will likely not be available for some time.
Yesterday’s vote saw a dramatic decrease in voter turnout over the 2004 election which swept Karzai to power, and scores of attacks were reported across the country, despite government efforts to keep the media from reporting on them.
The two pre-vote polls that were generally available (both funded by the US government) showed Karzai in the lead but with both he and Abdullah falling well short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off election at some future date. At the same time, a dramatically uneven turnout and attempts to stuff the ballot box with extra votes, bought on the open market for around $8 a piece, are likely to make these polls less than useless in predicting the final outcome.