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Marshal Fahim’s Absence in the Electoral Politics

مارشال محمد قسیم فهیم

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Marshal Qasim Fahim’s death was unexpected and occurred at a crucial juncture of time. As a leading political figure, Fahim passed away at a time when the country is inching closer to the April’s presidential election, which is going to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan. Marshal Fahim was expected to play an important role in the upcoming elections, though he had not endorsed a candidate explicitly. Given that he was a powerful political figure and was connected politically to both the government and the opposition groups, it is believed that his death will inevitably affect the ever-changing Afghan politics and the upcoming election in a way or another.

Marshal Fahim’s prominence for his role in the upcoming election comes from the role he played in past thirteen years. He is considered as one of the founders of Afghanistan’s current political establishment. Fahim’s endorsement of the Bonn agreement was a major contribution to a process which later formed the transitional government headed by Hamid Karzai. He was in charge of the Northern Alliance shortly after fall of the Taliban regime and controlled the capital, when Afghan parties agreed on the country’s political system in Bonn, Germany.

In recent months and weeks, many of the presidential candidates were seeking to gain backing of the late Vice President whose backing was considered as a key to help a major shift in the political array of Afghanistan’s ongoing electoral politics. Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign team claimed many times that the first Vice President was supporting Abdullah’s candidacy. However, Marshal Fahim declined to publicly announce his support to a specific candidate despite that continued to have meetings and negotiations with a number of presidential candidates. While most of Afghan politicians in recent months rushed to back a candidate for the upcoming presidential race, Fahim avoided approving a candidate for the election.

This, in turn, further created secrecy over his role in the election process. Some believe that given the possibility of a political crisis in the aftermath of the upcoming elections, Fahim was prepared to play a balancing role among the stakeholders. With his death, many of the candidates who had pinned hopes to his support might have lost a supporter and will find it hard to garner votes of Marshal’s supporters since they will be divided in supporting Abdullah, Ahmad Zia Massoud’s camp and other candidates including Ismail Khan’s camp.

Still, Abdullah Abdullah is most likely to be able to mobilize Fahim’s suporters to his backing as he was already counting on Marshal’s support. Afghanistan’s politics lost a political figure which had a special standing in today’s Afghan politics due to his political ties with both the government camp and the opposition. Considering the nature of Afghan politics, Afghanistan has lost not only a political figure but also a key member of a patronage system of politics which could sometimes help forge political consensus at times of crises.

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