Feature

The AfPak Crystal Ball

Our experts predict Afghanistan's election results.

As Afghanistan votes, our AfPak experts make their final election-outcome predictions. Surprisingly, their thinking predicts a much tighter race than many originally expected, closer than forecasts made even just a few weeks ago. Indeed, a slim majority of our experts believe that incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, will be forced into a runoff by receiving less than 50 percent of the vote, and even those who predict an outright Karzai win think he will receive just over 50 percent. No one will know the results for at least two weeks more, there are over 30 candidates contesting on tomorrow’s ballot. Here are Karzai's three main competitors. 

 

Karzai

Abdullah

Ghani

Bashardost

Others

Official turnout

Peter Bergen

52

30

10

0

8

65

Gilles Dorronsoro

55

35

5

0

6

40

Alex Strick van Linschoten

51

29

8

0

12

45

Shuja Nawaz

44

30

7

13

6

60

Austin Long

48

37

9

 

6

55

Andrew Wilder

47

30

8

8

7

45

Norine MacDonald

45

35

5

10

5

 

Alex Thier

53

32

6

9

 

Unresolved

Martine van Bijlert

48

31

6

10

5

47

Hassan Abbas

50

28

8

7

7

45

 

49.2

31.2

7.1

10

1.7

51

Candidate: Abdullah Abdullah
Former Foreign Minister
Age: 48
Ethnic Background: Pashtun/Tajik

Trained as an ophthalmologist, Abdullah is as Karzai's main challenger. He has drawn large crowds to rallies, particularly in areas with high Tajik populations like Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. Abdullah has a Pashtun father and Tajik mother, but is closely associated with the Tajiks, and sometimes pictured on posters next to photos Ahmed Shah Massoud, the late Northern Alliance leader and Tajik hero. He has campaigned against Karzai on the grounds that despite 8 years of power, the country has not made enough economic and security progress..

Candidate: Ramazan Bashardost
Former Planning Minister, Member of Parliament
Age: 43
Ethnic Background: Hazara

Educated in France, Bashardost has earned a populist following by living in a tent near the parliament building where he is an MP. He donates a good portion of his salary to the poor, and tours Afghanistan with little security. He is a member of the Hazara ethnic group, which is about 10 percent of the population. Not initially taken seriously, and still a long shot to win, Bashardost is now seen as a potentially decisive candidate both for his potential to draw away votes from other candidates in the first round and to make a powerful endorsement should there be a runoff.

Candidate: Ashraf Ghani
Former Finance Minister
Age: 60
Ethnic Background: Pashtun

A former World Bank official educated at Columbia, Ghani has received significant attention from the Western media, publishing op-eds in publications like the Wall Street Journal and recruiting U.S. political strategist James Carville to help with his campaign. The latest poll showed him with six percent of the vote, but his criticism of frontrunner Karzai, whom he called "the head of one of the most incompetent administrations in our history," is thought to have helped make the election competitive.

Candidate: Hamid Karzai
Current President of Afghanistan
Age: 51
Ethnic Background: Pashtun

The heavy favorite to win, Karzai was appointed in 2002 as the interim head of Afghanistan's Transitional Administration, and officially elected president in 2004. Critics of Karzai have called his administration ineffective and accused him of corruption, earning him the nickname "the mayor of Kabul." His campaign has pursued alliances and cut deals with Afghan power brokers and warlords. Last week allowed the return of Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, who had been exiled by Karzai, and Dostum endorsed Karzai for president, possibly giving him the boost he needs to avoid a runoff.

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

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