Skip to main content

Aghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai attends a campaign rally in Kabul on Aug. 7, 2009.

LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS

The spectacle of Afghan politics is like a carousel: The same cast of characters spins in circles, going nowhere. But after next month's presidential election, things could be different.

Hamid Karzai is finally stepping down, constitutionally banned from seeking a third term. Vying to succeed him are nearly a dozen candidates, ranging from warlords to tribal leaders to politicians in the pocket of the Karzai clan. And then there is Ashraf Ghani.

In 2009, he finished close to dead last in the race for Afghan president, with just 3 per cent of the vote. This time, things are different. Mr. Ghani is polling ahead of most of the pack. With less than a month to go before the ballot, his main rival is the former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah. For the good of Afghanistan, Mr. Ghani should win.

Story continues below advertisement

It's not just that Mr. Ghani has literally written the book on how his country can be saved from ruin. An academic who left the country just before the Soviet invasion, he has spent much of his life researching state-building at Columbia, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins, followed by a stint at the World Bank. When he returned to Afghanistan in 2002 he devoted himself to putting those ideas into practice, serving as the country's finance minister and advising the United Nations on the best ways to empower Afghans – including women and the poor – to shape their own future.

Mr. Ghani is an educated idealist, but he is not an innocent. His running mate is General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a prominent warlord. He recognizes the pull of tribal loyalties, but also aims to harness and limit them. He believes in investing in energy production, linking food producers to international markets, and rooting out corruption. Coming from anyone else, these promises sound like pie in the sky. But Mr. Ghani has the intellect and the experience to give them a fighting chance.

Four years ago, Afghan voters chose Mr. Karzai. The country is still paying the price. American intelligence assessments predict a future where the Taliban wields even more influence than it does today. Mr. Karzai is not the only one to blame, but he leaves behind a disappointing legacy. Mr. Ghani's appeal to voters, including the country's huge diaspora, is gaining traction. His vision is hopeful and pragmatic. He's Afghanistan's best shot at a second chance.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter