Afghanistan’s seemingly never-ending presidential elections have surprised us with another twist in the tale. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has pulled his observers from the audit claiming his demands weren’t met. After a bitterly contested election, where both sides claimed “industrial-scale” rigging had taken place, the US brokered agreement seems to be unwinding. Under the agreement, the UN would carry out an audit of the whole election, both parties publically signed a written agreement to form a ‘National Unity Government’- a power sharing government where the loser would become the Chief Executive; a post to be specifically created after the election. Yet despite all this goodwill, expediency and maturity displayed by the candidates, the lure of power is hard to ignore.

The initial reaction was of alarm; if this carefully constructed audit falls apart then it spells doom for the already fragile Afghan democracy. The power vacuum at the top may lead to infighting and increase Taliban influence beyond their mountainside hideouts. However, the UN has assured that it will continue with the audit despite this setback. After an initial statement where Mr Abdullah’s party claimed that it considers the audit “illegitimate”, there has been a softening of the stance. It seems that these tactics are nothing more than brinkmanship in a bid to increase influence; with the other presidential candidate Mr Ghani widely rumored to win, Mr Abdullah is trying hard to increase the powers of the Chief Executive post, whose exact ambit and role has yet to be defined.

These are terribly hard times for Afghanistan, and beyond the flag of a democratic ideology, there is no great win to be had here. It will be a fragile leadership rooted in compromise, right from the beginning. As long as it is a compromise that embraces stability before all else, it will be worth having.