Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Do we know why the Afghans should vote?

Adelina Marini, August 20, 2009

For the first time in 30 years Afghanistan is holding elections on its own. This sentence sounds more than positive, isn't it, but is it true? When a person talks about Afghanistan the word elections has very different meaning, although the technology is, practically, the same. It might be a little exaggerated but in many aspects, the word elections in Afghanistan is very close to the meaning of the word in Bulgaria. Thanks God, the similarities are not too many but are significant. And they are that the main problem of the Afghan authorities and the piece-keeping forces in the country is to tackle the buying of votes and the expected forge or stumbling of voting. That is why everyone is obliged after voting to give finger imprints.

The rest of the measures, fortunately, are absent in Bulgaria, but the reasons why they exist in Afghanistan are very interesting. When entering the polling station every voter is being searched for weapons. The fear of attacks, organised by the Taleban, is enormous because this might stop a lot of Afghans from voting. Even stronger is the fear of women who, for the first time, will have the right to vote.

And here is the main question - do the Afghans know why they vote? And do we know why they vote? Regretfully, I'm not there and I cannot say for certain, but many Afghans are indifferent to the voting because they cannot imagine how a vote could change their everyday life. The same is in Bulgaria - many people vote either because they are forced to by someone or because this is what needs to be done during elections. May be, the parallel is not very proper, but in Bulgaria and in Afghanistan the people that vote because this is one of the most direct expressions of a free man are very small number.

I am doing the parallel with Afghanistan because of the developed countries, that are now actively helping the so called democratic processes in countries like Afghanistan, have reached the democracy they are indulging now in a natural evolution, unlike Bulgaria and Afghanistan. Of course, the cases of Bulgaria and Afghanistan are totally different but they have a lot in common too. Afghanistan is a tribal state with a large territory. It has always been hard to invade because of this disunion and the difficult mountain terrain which is an obstacle for the activation of trade or any other type of connections with the rest of the world. Bulgaria had also been for a long time under foreign domination but for the opposite reasons - favourable terrain and strategic position.

Many great states exercised their greatness and power in Afghanistan and have failed. The US and, therefore NATO also fell in the trap. Although today the situation is slightly different. If in the past the states mentioned above wanted to rule Afghanistan for very prosaic and pragmatic reasons, now the circumstances impose exactly the opposite behaviour - Afghanistan has to be a free and independent state so that it can stop being a feeding ground for terrorists. Of course, this country that borders with Pakistan, Iran and India, doesn't have even the slightest readiness to be independent, even less free just because this is the level of development of their society, in spite of the money, being pored by the international community.

And if until last year the democratic world could exercise peaceful democratization either in Iraq or in Afghanistan, or elsewhere, not it is suffering severe financial and economic crisis and these efforts are a burden for their budgets. This is the reason why the US and the UK, being the main authors of the strategy for Afghanistan, to be trying to accelerate the process of power transfer in Afghanistan. Everybody is tired, especially by the lack of knowledge why, the hell, do our politicians need to fight on the other edge of the world?

According to the latest opinion poll of the Washington post and the ABC television a majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country. But the fact is that a large part of the respondents have confidence in the ability of the United States to meet its primary goals of defeating the Taleban, facilitating economic development but very few of them say that Thursday's elections there are likely to produce an honest and effective Afghan government.

The British government is also forced to explain to its citizens why it needs to stay in Afghanistan. For weeks the government in London is making a large campaign, hoping to increase the support for the cause. In each of his articles the foreign secretary David Miliband starts with the number of the British casualties, that have died for the idea which is, as Miliband writes: "We are in Afghanistan through necessity. As the home of international terrorism, the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan remains the primary threat to Britain's national security. Having driven al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, we must not let it come back again under the safe umbrella of Taleban rule".

In spite of the well presented motives though, the last 8 years of military presence of the international community in Afghanistan show rather a failure. One of the main reasons for this failure is the lack of clarity who are we actually fighting against? How do these people look like and what exactly do they want and why? Another reason is the lack of unanimity among the allies. The Americans were very convincing that as bigger the international presence is, the better. And although they managed to convince NATO, the contribution of member states, including Bulgaria is rather symbolic for various reasons.

And from last Autumn it became clear that Pakistan is literally "infected" by the Afghan disease, especially after general Perwez Musharraf went down from power. Even though he took power through a military coup, he had a tough grip. This put Russia in the game, although Moscow preferred to stay aside because it has profound experience in Afghanistan but under the auspices of the Soviet Union.

From this point of view, the issue whether the developed countries are trying to release themselves from the Afghan burden long before the country is ready to take responsibility of itself, is very actual in the day of elections. The same way as the same issue is still valid 2 years after Bulgaria's membership to the EU - were we ready for this and at what price this had happened? Even more important is the question - who is going to pay that price?