THE BLOG

Afghanistan's Karzai - Pretty Much Loathed but Pretty Much Re-elected

Mike Tyson -- one of the world's greatest philosophers -- once said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Which could well be a short hand way of looking at American foreign policy since 2001, or more specifically, looking at the current plan to get rid of Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president.

The plan goes like this: After the election of August 20, Karzai will exit stage left, taking with him his failed policies, his dodgy connections -- both within his family and his friendships with warlords, and his association with eight years of embarrassing coalition failure. In will come a brand new clean slate over which NATO and US allies can crayon their ongoing strategy.

The problem with that plan is -- as Iron Mike so wonderfully put it -- we are about to be punched in the face. Karzai, it seems, is not going anywhere.

How can this man who seems so deeply resented in Afghanistan now look like he's the lay down misere for an election win?

He has shown great political wile in the past year, sugaring up policies, revving up his campaign, maneuvering like a man possessed: he is determined to keep the presidency. He has made nice with the Taliban, who have allowed voter registration in their held areas, while threatening anyone who plans to vote.

"He is in power, promises the warlords another five years (of) power, he has got his brothers and a large number business community around him who have benefited throughout the eight years in the past, he has all governors, provincial administrations and local leaders in his government chain...." one Kabul resident who previously voted for Hamid Karzai told the Huffington Post.

There are a handful of strong contenders among the forty standing against Karzai -- and the announcement this week that maverick James Carville will be advising Dr Ashraf Ghani -- a favorite among the urban educated population, and seen by the West as an honest broker -- could be indication of how Washington hopes the elections will go.

The Kabul resident is now supporting Dr Ashraf Ghani but feels discouraged by the elections and the polls.

"It will be disappointing if he (Ghani) doesn't get enough votes (because) not only Afghanistan (but) the international community will be losing another golden chance as the lost on 2002-2004." he said. "We want change. We want a deliberate, decisive leader with a long term vision and plan. I want a leader who is following a schedule according to a plan and timetable; he shouldn't be demand-driven with scattered ideas and vision."

A young Afghan first time voter, Ali Maisam Nazary, will be voting for former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. But he too, is resigned to a Karzai victory.

"Who wants another five years of corruption and failure? I see this as the last chance for Afghanistan to save itself and Karzai will only make the situation worse than now. The constitution has failed and keeping and safe guarding it without fundamental changes and reforms will not change anything in Karzai's future government."

Middle class voters in Kabul may feel disgusted with Karzai but they are certainly not alone. Across the country demoralization and despair casts a heavy pall.

But the Afghan election is not just about the future of one country. It is about the lives and security of billions of people across the globe. The US people cast a vote for the world every time they vote for their president. This time, Afghans will be doing the same.