GEORGE W. BUSH, AYAD ALLAWI, AND DON RUMSFELD are committed to elections in January in Iraq no matter how messy.
This New York Times piece today by my friend and colleague Noah Feldman argues that the mania over having the elections no matter how chaotic the environment is wrong-headed.
Jumping to Afghanistan, Mark Goldberg raises good points about paltry election monitoring in the upcoming elections that I haven’t read anywhere else — something that may be relevant in the Iraq elections as well.
Goldberg’s piece will appear in the forthcoming October issue of American Prospect — and I reprint in full here (with permission) as there is not yet a link to the article.
Minimal Monitors
Thorough election monitoring is a staple in countries recovering from long periods of civil strife. In post-conflict zones such as Bosnia, East Timor, and Haiti, large numbers of foreign experts and trained local monitors have been instrumental in granting legitimacy to the election results, thereby helping those nations’ transition to democracy.
But not in Afghanistan. On October 9, as Afghans take to the polls in their country’s first presidential election since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001, not a single foreign monitoring body will have a significant presence in the country. The European Union and other intergovernmental organizations with experience monitoring elections in post-conflict areas once had high hopes for robust monitoring in Afghanistan.
Increasing violence and attacks on foreign aid workers, however, have since forced the EU and others to scale back their commitments. In fact, as of mid-September, the only nationwide election monitoring is to be conducted by the Free and Fair Elections Foundation for Afghanistan (FEFA), a group of Afghans trained by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The FEFA’s monitors number around 1,400 — a paltry figure compared to the 10.5 million Afghans who have registered to vote. The ratio of election monitors to voters in Afghanistan comes to one monitor for every 7,142 voters. In East Timor the ratio was one monitor for every 444 voters.
Of course, the sparse election monitoring is a direct consequence of the dire security situation throughout Afghanistan. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in political violence there in the last year, and the Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants have pledged to disrupt the October elections.
According to a report by the NDI, in some regions the Taliban are reportedly distributing fliers proclaiming that those who vote will be killed. Few blame the intergovernmental organizations for their reluctance to put a significant number of monitors on the ground this October; no one wants to see foreign aid workers killed. Rather, many in the aid community question the timing of these elections as such.
As Andrew Wilder, head of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, a Kabul-based nongovernmental organization, told Agence France Presse in September, “If it is too dangerous for monitors to monitor, isn’t it too dangerous for Afghans to vote?”
–Mark Goldberg, American Prospect, October 2004

Anyone know about the election monitoring plan in Iraq?
— Steve Clemons