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Confronted with evidence of wide-ranging fraud on his behalf in Afghanistan’s recent presidential election, Hamid Karzai told Le Figaro: “There was fraud in 2004, and there is today, and there will be tomorrow.”
He had a point. While Tony Blair praised the 2004 presidential elections as a “magnificent tribute … to the power of democracy”, the reality was very different.
Vote early, vote often
Then, as now, “Voters in many rural areas [were] told by warlords and regional commanders how to vote” (Human Rights Watch), and Karzai was sanguine about the mounting evidence of fraud, telling journalists: “[I]t doesn’t bother me. If Afghans have two registration cards and they would like to vote twice, well, welcome. This is an exercise in democracy. Let them exercise it twice.”
At the time, US journalist Christian Parenti – who covered the election for The Nation, and was himself able to obtain two valid voting cards – noted that the 2004 election was really about the “solidification and legitimation of a government that is going to be heavily populated by really, really brutal, cruel criminals” – namely the US-backed warlords who were brought back to power following the 2001 invasion.
Plus ça change.