Despite the extremely tense situation and Taliban attacks, people across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces voted Saturday in the country’s twice-postponed presidential election. While the polling was thought lower than in 2014, some estimates suggest that around 40 per cent of the 9.6 million registered voters exercised their franchise.
This isn’t bad at all, even if there’s a small over-estimate. Just look at the odds. More than 32 people were killed and over 120 hurt in voting-day violence, according to Pajhwok, a well-regarded Kabul-based news agency.
It is thought the result will be known in three weeks, but this could depend on how steady political dynamics remain between now and the results. Indeed, will the poll outcome be announced if the peace talks between the US and the Taliban, that were stalled recently after being nearly over in Qatar, are revived? Both sides seem to want resumption.
It’s a different matter whether peace can be brought about even if the talks are declared a success. In that event, much will depend on whether the fighters agree to be in tune with the rest of Afghan society, various political sections, as well as the government.
If the interrupted peace negotiations aren’t restarted in the near future, there might as well be a government. If not, the constitutional vacuum after the polling is done can throw up an unfortunate free for all.
India enjoys tremendous goodwill in Afghanistan but has little political leverage. This is due to Delhi’s pusillanimity. It has taken the safe view that it will back the preferences of the government in Kabul. But when there is no government after the election if the peace talks resume, New Delhi must be ready to think on its feet.