March 03, 2009

Oh Snap, Afghan Elections in May?

Londonstani beat me to Nick Schmidle's Zadari profile.  But in other wily-South-Asian-presidents news, Hamid Karzai has just called the collective bluff of his domestic opposition by announcing spring elections.

Karzai's term is set to expire on 21 May, but elections, as many readers know, weren't scheduled until August--a move supported by ISAF and the UN on security grounds.  This led Karzai's leading challengers to call for a caretaker government to rule in the intervening three months, which would of course limit Karzai's ability to campaign with the resources of the state behind him.  So he went all in and announced that elections would be held "in accordance with the constitution," meaning sometime in April or May.

According to one friend of the blog, this leaves the US and ISAF in the delightful position of suggesting that constitutionally mandated elections be delayed because we won't quite have enough troops there to provide security until Summer.  That doesn't read well on a poster...

Karzai has been beaten up a bit in the US press lately, and with good reason.   The corruption of his administration, as experienced in the provinces, has made the Taliban (and their, er, "efficient" judicial system) palatable again.  But this isn't Karzai's first rodeo.  He didn't survive politically for this long by playing nice or being a lapdog (except, of course, when it was in his interest).   Right now, in this region, the only thing worse than over-estimating Pakistan's Zadari is under-estimating Afghanistan's Karzai.  Stay tuned.

Update:  Additional commentary from Spencer.