CAROL HARRINGTON AND JARED FERRIE
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
KABUL—With evidence mounting of plans for widespread vote-rigging in Afghanistan's upcoming elections, U.S. experts say the controversy could emerge as a serious liability for U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election campaign.
After voter registration centres closed across Afghanistan on the weekend, election officials acknowledged the number of voting cards issued far exceeded the estimated number of eligible voters — and that the illegal practice of multiple registrations is widespread.
"An Afghan election marred by allegations of fraud would be bad for President Bush's overall claim of promoting democracy in the Muslim world," said Husain Haqqani, an Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "In the absence of good news from Iraq, the Bush administration needs Afghanistan as its success story."
For months, Bush has staked his claims on a successful democratic Afghanistan, saying it would serve as an example of how America can bring democracy, and free and fair elections to the developing world.
"The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance to the world," Bush said in a speech in Washington last March. "We have set out to encourage reform and democracy."
But with seven weeks to go before the Oct. 9 poll, the Star has found the practice of multiple registrations is rife.
Observers also claim the ground work necessary for a free and fair election — security, reconstruction and political stability — has not been established in Afghanistan and that the U.S. hurriedly pushed the country into elections to further its own agenda.
"The United States wants, before the November elections, to showcase a victory of the Bush administration by proving it is possible to bring democracy to an Islamic Third World country," said Assem Akram, an Afghan historian and author based in Washington. "And if American voters grant George Bush a new mandate, his administration will reproduce the same successful model in Iraq. That is why there is so much hurry."
With scarce funds and hasty plans for rebuilding Afghanistan, some critics aren't surprised the elections are starting to unravel in advance of polling day. Although it will take at least a week to report the final tally of registered voters, United Nations officials overseeing the elections admit that more than 10 million voting cards have been issued — surpassing the estimated 9.8 million eligible voters.
Bush* has credibility that can be threatened?? Where does he keep it??
Looks to me like Katherine Harris should pop right over and fix this mess...