Ghani Will Win Thanks to Unchecked Power of Incumbency

As power brokers, politicians and groups jockey around a handful of Afghan presidential hopefuls, one could be instantly tempted to wonder which team could win the July 2019 election. Thus far most speculations about the next president are centered around vice presidential picks — who is with who — because the primary candidates were somewhat known.

It was no surprise that Ashraf Ghani ditched Gen. Dostum, but he did surprise many by picking a relatively young Amrullah Saleh who Ghani appointed to the Interior Ministry less than a month ago.

A perfect team of a well-educated Pashtun, an outspoken Tajik and an academic Hazara, Ghani’s team carries a very strong urban appeal. Knowing that rural Afghanistan is mostly under the Taliban’s influence/control where voters’ turnout will be minimal at best, Ashraf Ghani rightly sees the magic of the upcoming vote in the big cities like Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and Mazar. Almost 35 per cent of the entire turnout in the last parliamentary election was in these four cities. Under this calculus, big cities shape the socio-political dynamics of the elections and rural electorates only trail behind. Moreover, rigging and fraud is most convenient in the rural areas where media and watchdogs are absent.

Already Hanif Atmar’s team is perceived to be Ghani’s most formidable rival. Also flanked by a Tajik and a Hazara, Atmar’s team doesn’t appear too articulate to the young urban electorate. Ironically, his 1st VP, Yunus Qanooni, has both endorsed another candidate, Wali Masood, and has spoken about his ingenuine alliance with Atmar in a leaked audio message. Last week, Atmar’s campaign spokesman resigned in protest to what’s reported as his secret contract with Jamiat Party to overhaul the political landscape into a semi federal system. Always fearful of their interventionist neighbors, most Afghans may not find a federal system very supportive to their fragile political institutions and could therefore doubt Atmar’s charm.

There is also a hypothesis about Mr. Atmar’s true intentions. Given his longstanding allegiance to Ghani, would not Atmar cap his presidential desire and endorse Ghani a week before the vote? This could guarantee Atmar’s presidency in the 2024 presidential election when Ghani’s 2nd and last term expires, and he’d return the favor to Atmar.

Even without this calculus, Ghani’s team seems destined to win because of the indispensable power of incumbency. In a country where every conceivable political privilege is at the disposal of the president, how could a political process fail the overlord at the top?

The majority of Afghan electorate still either do not know the real power of their vote to make a change at the very top, or do not believe in the integrity of government institutions, including the so-called “independent” election commissions, to unseat the president. Historically, Afghan kings and presidents are either killed or ousted by force (even Hamid Karzai had no constitutional pretext to stay in power). Ashraf Ghani wants another term and will use everything in the government system to conclude the electoral process to his benefit.




Polyglot journalist

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Akmal Dawi

Akmal Dawi

Polyglot journalist

More from Medium

Nancy Do: A founder’s dream to democratize cannabis

The Mourning of the Democracy Movement

Why Your Podcast Guest Pitch Was Ignored

Netflix Loses Memberships — Will Ads Help Cash-Strapped Viewers Find Their Way Home?