The US led experiment in exporting democracy around the world has shipped damaged goods until now; Iraq is desperately trying to piece a government together as ISIS is cutting through large portions of northern Iraq leaving a trail of dead bodies in its wake. It seemed Afghanistan was headed towards a similar fate; presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani were in a deadlock over the results of the second round of the allegedly rigged presidential elections. Although both sides agreed to a full audit of the 8 million votes cast under the auspices of the UN and ISAF, the process was moving at a glacial pace. With the Taliban stirring in their mountain retreats and the threat of ethnic violence, it was a positive development when both parties formally signed an agreement to form a “Government of National Unity” regardless of who emerged victorious. While the exact ambit of this agreement is unclear, a few salient points have emerged; both parties will share power, while the winner will become the President, the loser will take the mantle of “Chief Executive”, a post that will be created immediately after the election through a presidential ordinance. Both the President and the Chief Executive will appoint ministers. Most importantly, a deadline has been set for inauguration before the end of August.

This agreement will be perceived to go a long way in achieving stability. With almost all ethnicities and groups now represented in government, including the Warlords of the Northern Alliance, many argue it will bring a measure of calm to the Government. But there is always the danger of greater instability and policy inertia as a result of power pacts on this level; especially when both men feel equally entitled to the post. Crucially though, Afghanistan will be able to meet the deadline for signing the Bilateral Security Arrangement with the US.

It is clear however, that the Afghan voters have not been allowed to make their choice; deal making has formed this government. The absence of a real opposition and Afghanistan’s track record of corruption make for an unpleasant combination for this infant democracy. To the voter on the streets, it appears as though two elites, both dishonestly involved in rigging, have agreed to share the spoils of power rather than honoring the public mandate.

While stability might return (at least in the short run), democracy has taken a hit. For those who remember the bloody Civil Wars of the late 20th century, it’s a price not too heavy to pay.