That other election, the one people die over

News from Paris today suggests that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai’s reelection will be accepted by the world community, despite widespread and growing complaints of electoral fraud.

Envoys from up to 27 nations and international organizations attended a meeting in Paris to discuss the situation in the messy aftermath of the Aug. 20 election in Afghanistan. It had looked as though Karzai might have to face a run-off, but the feeling at the meeting was apparently that he’ll be allowed to win on the basis of the first vote result. (The backdrop for the meeting: more killing in Afghanistan.)

Officials in Ottawa were unwilling to say anything about the stance taken by Canada’s representative at the meeting, Greta Bossenmaier, deputy minister for the federal Afghanistan Task Force. However, media reports suggest the envoys as a group are playing down talk that Karzai cheated too much to be allowed to win. Instead, they are stressing the need for him to appoint credible ministers to give his new administration a better image than the old one.

I have to wonder where all this leaves Grant Kippen, the Canadian chairman of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission. Kippen is reportedly coping with a flood of some 2,000 complaints. If Karzai’s win is already accepted as inevitable, what does his work amount to?

Kippen was, by the way, among the first observers I know of who saw the weakness of Karzai’s government as a problem at least as serious as the insurgency itself. That once seemed an eccentric position; now it’s a mainstream view. Here’s what Kippen told me for a story way back in 2006: “To me the biggest threat right now to the government is the whole issue of corruption and nepotism. Those are the factors that brought about the Taliban. The risk is that people won’t look to the central government the way we want them to.”

That was right then and, if Karai has indeed won again, it’s even righter now.

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