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Afghanistan Presidential Runoff Election Canceled

Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepares to receive U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the presidential palace in Kabul on Monday.
Ahmad Masood
Afghan President Hamid Karzai prepares to receive U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the presidential palace in Kabul on Monday.

Afghanistan's election commission canceled a planned runoff election and declared President Hamid Karzai the victor Monday in the wake of a decision by his chief rival to drop out of a vote he said would be fraudulent.

Azizullah Lodin, the chair of the commission, made the announcement at a news conference Monday in Kabul.

Speaking to NPR on Monday, Karzai rival Abdullah Abdullah said it was a "painful decision" to withdraw from the runoff that was to have been held on Nov. 7. Abdullah told NPR's Morning Edition he would continue to promote reform and push for the independence of the election commission, which he accuses of bias in favor of Karzai.


Abdullah, a former foreign minister who was a member of the alliance that helped topple the Taliban eight years ago, came in second to Karzai in the first round of balloting in August. He accused the president and the election commission, which oversaw the vote, of rigging the election.

After months of back and forth and appeals, Abdullah officially dropped out of the race on Sunday, saying the runoff vote would not be free or fair. On Monday, the Independent Election Commission announced that the vote had been called off and that Karzai had been declared the winner.

Canceling the runoff spares Afghanistan the logistically complex and dangerous task of organizing balloting amid Taliban threats of violence and ahead of the country's harsh winter. Last week, an attack by suicide bombers on a guest house in the heart of Kabul killed five U.N. staffers and three Afghans, and raised security concerns.

There was also little expectation that Abdullah could win a second round. Accusations of fraud aside, Karzai received a plurality of votes in the first round, and most of the ballots that were cast for a third candidate were widely expected to go to Karzai in a second round, observers said.


The runoff, which would have cost an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars, also would have proved difficult to police, analysts said. International election monitors would oversee approximately 6,300 polling stations spread out across the country's rugged terrain.

Although the two sides had been in talks on a possible power-sharing deal, Abdullah told NPR he had not been in touch with Karzai in the past few days. Referring to any fallout from the canceled runoff, Abdullah said he would let Karzai "clear up this mess" before deciding what role, if any, he would play in the new government.

The news of Karzai's victory came hours after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Kabul to push for a quick resolution to the electoral impasse.

Even with the tainted election behind him, Karzai still faces a question of legitimacy, observers said. Nonetheless, Washington will be looking to him to forge stability in his fractious country, which has witnessed virtually endless conflict over three decades that began with a 1979 Soviet invasion.

The resolution to the political crisis comes as President Obama considers whether to deploy as many as 40,000 additional troops to stave off the resurgent Taliban.

Speaking to Morning Edition, Abdullah warned that Afghanistan is at a crossroads and could either become a moderate, democratic, Islamic country, "or a Taliban-type, al-Qaida-type sort of regime that will be a threat not only to the people of Afghanistan but for the rest of the world.

"This is the last chance [for] Afghanistan," he said. "Any decision we make today will affect us in the next 20 years — if we have that 20 years, or even 10 years."

From NPR and wire service reports.

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