I say the verdict is still out. Living in San Francisco, like many Afghans in the diaspora, I play the role of cheerleader rather than a player.
As all cheerleaders do, they watch the game and cheer at the right time but I feel like something has been missing in this game and the reporting of it. In talking to my friend Mark Mullen over coffee, the light bulb finally went on.
Just to qualify things, Mark is one of the foremost experts on elections in developing countries. Mark is the chair of Transparency International in the country of Georgia. He headed the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a Washington based NGO that promotes democracy worldwide, from 1997 until Shevardnadze left office. So, I thought he would be a good person to talk to.
According to Mark, there are three and only three requirements for a successful election:
1. Peaceful voting.
2. Losing candidate accepts results.
3. The person elected is whom most people voted for.
How many election rules are broken doesn't matter -- it's the will of the people and their ownership of the results that counts. We've dumped the Kool Aid on the coach before the game has ended.
Don't get me wrong. I am very proud of how the elections were executed and proud of the Afghans who voted -- let's do things right and not lose site of the crucial next steps.
As we wait for the votes to be counted and possibly a run off election, I want to pass on a few words of wisdom my friend Mark bestowed upon me.
If there is a run off, the country will be divided and how that division is handled will make or break the election's success.
Once a candidate is declared a winner, the losing candidate should not contest the election results. In return, the winner must be civil to his opponents and have a delicately crafted inauguration speech declaring himself as the President for all the Afghan people, whether they voted for him or not. How the winner handles the win determines how the country will the people will support and trust their new leader.
So, Mr. Ghani, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Rassoul. I hope you take on Mark's years of experience and good advice to heart and move Afghanistan to the next phase of its fledgling democracy with a united front.