Afghan Elections – “Well it’s not Switzerland”
This Saturday’s planned vote for the “Wolesa Jirga” – the 249 seat lower house – is being characterised with violence, corruption and a continuation of the status quo in occupied Afghanistan. Following on from the widely condemned Presidential elections of last summer in which Hamid Karzai was exposed over widespread election rigging, expectations for this election are decidedly low. Western commentators have virtually written off expectations of a fair election with the above phrase – “Well it’s not Switzerland”.
How should Muslims view this election?
The first matter that strikes any observer is that it is a sham to expect any form of fairness in an occupied war-zone. Not only is the election clearly unsafe from violence, the likelihood of independence from occupying forces is zero. No one expects that the US would allow a result that is against its interests. Similarly it is absurd to expect any people – Islamic or secular – to accept such occupation of their land, and management of a vote under the shadow of the occupiers weaponry.
With corruption widespread – Afghanistan is ranked 179 out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s 2009 corruption ratings, one has to question what the purpose of the election is. Gallup has surveyed Afghanis who have clearly indicated that their distrust of politicians has continued to grow post last years controversial Presidential election (the first such election in the 9 year occupation).
The average Afghan household pays an appalling $100 a year in bribes just to survive (while half of the population lives on less than $700 a year).
There has been no improvement in living standards in Afghanistan during this foolhardy new experiment in democracy. Afghanistan is 174th out of 178 countries on the United Nations Human Development index (ranking per capita income, public health and crime rates). The expected rebuilding of Afghanistan has failed to materialize. The US spends $100 million a day on its military in Afghanistan with a paltry $7 million a day committed to development, of which 40% is eaten by administrative expenses (usually via Western companies).
The entrenchment of new politicians including bankers and warlords who happily buy the necessary votes needed for election, will merely continue the cycle of corruption and mismanagement of the region. Many of these warlords have been implicated in the murder and mistreatment of prisoners dating back to 2001. Karzai’s vice presidents Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili are former warlords accused of rights abuses.
To western eyes, a veneer of progress is necessary to be presented to help stem a growing public opinion against the war. New elections help to build such an image, despite the obvious shortcomings. So “well its not Switzerland” becomes “it’s the best we can achieve for now” and “we are making progress”. All of which stand in stark contrast to the reality of growing corruption, declining living standards and a war which the occupying forces and its discredited puppet (Karzai) regime are losing. Muslims are not so easily deceived, voter turnout is expected to be low and little will change post the election. Until the occupation is ended and the people gain the right to live according to their beliefs (Islam) there will be little progress.
Well its currently not really Afghanistan.