Afghanistan’s presidential election has long been viewed by U.S. officials as a key to conferring legitimacy on the Afghan government, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his powerful warlord allies have planned to commit large-scale electoral fraud that could have the opposite effect.
Two U.S.-financed polls published during the past week showed support for Karzai falls well short of the 51 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff election. A poll by Glevum Associates showed Karzai at 36 percent, and a survey by the International Republican Institute had him at 44 percent of the vote. Those polls suggest that Karzai might have to pad his legitimate vote total by as much as 40 percent to be certain of being elected in the first round.
But Karzai has been laying the groundwork for just such a contingency for many months. By all accounts, he has forged political alliances with leading Afghan warlords who control informal militias and tribal networks in the provinces to carry out a vote fraud scheme accounting for a very large proportion of the votes.