Nearly two months after Afghans cast their presidential ballots, the electoral battle continues with the possibility of spiraling into violence. With what some dub the Kerry Agreement and the recent sequel Kerry II, the presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah pulled back from the brink, but disputes between the parties continue in a winner-take-all battle amid the UN-supervised national IEC audit.
Why have the candidates continued to fight? There was almost certainly fraud on both sides as supporters took advantage of Afghanistan’s insecurity and institutional deficits and found varying ways to “rock the vote.” However, the mere presence of fraud rarely matters; the fraud must be great enough to change the results. The preliminary results of the June 14 run-off show Ghani ahead with 4.5 million votes to Abdullah’s 3.5 million, about 56 percent to 44 percent. Does Abdullah really believe that he can overcome a million-vote difference?
I argue, with a couple assumptions, that Abdullah can reasonably believe that he can still win. As such, the parties will continue to fight over every vote and escalate when necessary, further threatening the stability of Afghanistan. This high-stakes game of electoral chicken will likely continue until the two sides collide or until the United States, desperate for some semblance of stability, can persuade a candidate to accept defeat.