Hamid Karzai has been declared the winner of the Afghani presidential election after a series of events put his election in question. Widespread fraud in the initial election and a challenger who demanded a runoff led Karzai to schedule a runoff for November 7. Just days before the runoff, however, Karzai’s opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the contest. In response, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission declared Karzai the winner.
Abdullah’s announcement came just days before the scheduled runoff and had several causes. Abdullah and his supporters voiced concerns over the possibility for further fraud in the runoff, as well as fears that voters might not be safe traveling to polling locations. The past month has seen an increase in the already common violence between Taliban fighters and the combined forces of Afghanistan, the United States, and other UN nations. The announcement that Karzai has been reelected president is also a contributing factor in the timing of the announcement that more U.S. troops would be sent to Afghanistan.
It is now Karzai’s job to form a government that represents people from all segments of Afghani society. Abdullah has rejected the idea that he would take part in the new government, but he and his supporters are now positioned to be an important voice in future elections and political debate.
- Karzai Gets New Term
This article describes the events directly leading to the Independent Elections Commission’s decision to name Karzai the winner of the election.
(Source: New York Times, November 2, 2009)
- Karzai Declared Elected President
This Web page contains video of the announcement and graphs of the voting results of the August election.
(Source: BBC, November 2, 2009)
- Karzai Accepts Runoff
This news article explains the conflict in Afghanistan and the importance of the decision to hold a runoff election.
(Source: CNN, November 2, 2009)
- Afghan Election
This article describes the conflict surrounding the initial August election.
(Source: The Daily Telegraph, November 2, 2009)
Other Issues in the Region
Expanding economies in the Middle East have led some countries in the region to rely on “guest workers” from other countries. While many guest workers are unskilled laborers, some take skilled positions in oil or high-tech industries. The presence of so many guest workers can lead to culture clashes. The workers face complicated employment laws, and sometimes live or work in unsafe conditions. They can also become the target of terrorists whose agenda includes removing foreign influences from their countries.
- Arroyo Announces P1-B Fund for Displaced Overseas Filipino Workers
President Arroyo of the Philippines has announced a program that will offer aid to Filipino workers living overseas in the Middle East. Many workers who moved from the Philippines to the Middle East have lost their jobs. The new program will help them find new work, or retrain them to work in other industries.
(Source: ABS-CBN, February 2, 2009)
Oil Wealth Fuels Change
Oil fuels the world’s industries and transportation—and its economies. Oil became a valuable strategic commodity, a resource so important that nations will go to war to ensure its steady supply. Southwest Asia contains much of the world’s oil supply, but oil prices rise and fall unpredictably. As a result, Southwest Asian countries cannot always plan how much revenue oil will bring in.
Economic development requires diversification—the development of multiple sectors of an economy, such as agriculture, mining, and technology. The countries of Southwest Asia are also investing oil profits in building and improving other infrastructure essentials, such as roads and telecommunications. Moreover, there is an awareness of the need to provide education, since economic development requires the knowledge and skills of a well-trained and well-informed workforce and citizenry.
Conflict over Land
Conflicts between Jews and Arabs over land controlled by Israel continue to disrupt life in the region. The Palestinian people living in Israel are seeking their own autonomous nation. The signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians suggested that the two sides could achieve a permanent peace. But by the early 21st century, violence had spiked once again. In August of last year, Israel pulled all of its settlers out of the Gaza Strip region. Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967, and since then it has been a major point of contention between Israelis and the Palestinians who live there and insist the land is theirs. In January of 2006, the Hamas Party was elected into power in the Palestinian Territories.
- Scale of Gaza Destruction Emerges
The three-week Israeli military offensive aimed at Gaza in January 2009 left 1,300 Palestinians dead and tens of thousands homeless. A cease-fire was called after three weeks of attacks, but Hamas soon began launching missiles into Israel again, and sporadic violence continued.
(Source: BBC, January 19, 2009)