Hamid Karzai and the hopeless 22.

Hamid Karzai and the hopeless 22.

Hamid Karzai and the hopeless 22.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
Aug. 9 2004 3:36 PM

Hamid Karzai and the Hopeless 22

Afghanistan's interim leader is unpopular and ineffectual. Chances are he'll easily win the October elections.

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All the Afghans I talked to are thirsting for the chance to vote, and judging by the numbers that have registered, most Afghans share that sentiment. (The United Nations claims registration has reached 90 percent.) But rather than an election, many feel they're witnessing a coronation engineered not for the good of Afghanistan but for the political benefit of the Bush administration. One Afghan journalist told me he was thinking of writing John Kerry's name on the ballot. ("I have his campaign button in my office, and I pray toward it five times a day," he said.)

But the Afghan people have another way to make their ambivalence known to the international community. If none of the 23 candidates wins at least 50 percent of the vote, election rules call for a runoff. (It would most likely be between Qanooni and Karzai.) Ramadan and the winter snows could delay the runoff until spring. And though that might not be the best possible outcome for the country's stability, perhaps an extra six months would be enough time to send in more troops, run a prolonged campaign, and ensure that Afghanistan's first presidential election is truly democratic.

Michael J. Kavanagh spent the first half of 2004 reporting on Rwanda through a Pew Fellowship in International Journalism.