KABUL, AFGHANISTAN—With challenger Abdullah Abdullah dropping out of November's runoff election, Afghan president Hamid Karzai was effectively reelected to a second term last Monday, evidence, world observers said, that Afghanistan has become a shining beacon of democracy, theocracy, autocracy, and authoritarianism in an otherwise troubled region.
"This election has proved to the world that Afghanistan is capable of conducting free, barely free, and not-so-free elections in which some or all forms of government are embraced," President Karzai said during a staged victory rally in front of his presidential palace. "We saw democracy: having an election in which people line up to vote; despotism: having your associates harass and suppress those who intend to vote incorrectly; dictatorship: ordering a widespread media blackout to cover up any and all violent activity; and theocracy: the Taliban actually having more influence and legitimacy than me no matter how many times I am unfairly elected. "
Added Karzai, "This a great day in Afghanistan for all 180 diametrically opposed forms of government."
From villagers in the most remote regions of the country to citizens in the poorest districts of Kabul, millions of Afghans lined up Aug. 20 so their voices could be heard, muffled, altered, and ignored.
According to U.N. officials charged with overseeing the vote, the election was a progressive step for Afghanistan's women, who were able to participate in both the democratic and totalitarian process by casting their votes and then having them immediately discarded.
Analysts also said this week that the sudden cancellation of November's runoff election further proved Afghanistan's commitment to either an autocratic or plutocratic political system, or perhaps a marionette system concealed behind a nominal, logocratic bureaucracy.
"Today I am very happy and proud to be an Afghan citizen whose vote fully counted in the 2009 presidential election," Kabul resident Ajani Karmal told reporters while officials from Hamid Karzai's government, Taliban leaders, members of the opposition United National Front, al-Qaeda operatives, and nearly 160 tribal chiefs carrying various forms of weaponry looked on. "Yes. Very, very happy."
While the election is being hailed as a testament to Afghanistan's devotion to autocratic, theocratic, and possibly even oligarchic ideals, it was not without its share of tragedy. On the day of the vote, Taliban insurgents fired more than 120 rockets in Kandahar alone, causing many Afghans to lose their lives in the name of whatever form of government they were or were not actively participating in.
"People have to realize that any burgeoning exilarchy, autocracy, or tyranny will, from time to time, experience setbacks," Robert Carlisle, an international adviser to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, told reporters. "The same goes for a burgeoning feudalistic, fascist, or kratocratic society, which is another thing we've had here over the past several months. Actually, if one has ever studied consociationalism, there was a little bit of that, too."
Nonetheless, world leaders representing every form of government from democracy to autocracy collectively praised the Afghan election as a powerful symbol of the country's ongoing commitment to various principles of some kind or another.
"I would like to send my congratulations to President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan for showing that, even in the most dire of circumstances, democracy is capable of flourishing," President Barack Obama said Monday. "I'm glad we have an ally in Afghanistan."
Obama was not alone.
"I would like to send my congratulations to President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan for showing that, even in the most dire of circumstances, a dictatorship is capable of flourishing," North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said Monday. "I'm glad we have an ally in Afghanistan."