Afghan rivals urged to respect election result


Bernard Kouchner addresses reporters in the French embassy in Kabul.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his main rival to abide by the results of August’s election which the United Nations has said was marked by “widespread fraud.”

Kai Eide, head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, said last week that the vote was flawed. Preliminary results of the August 20 election showed Karzai winning with 54 percent, but the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission could discard enough ballots to drop Karzai’s total below 50 percent, forcing a runoff with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. During a visit to Kabul on Sunday, Kouchner said he expected Karzai to win the second round, if one was needed. “Hamid Karzai was winner in the first (round),” Kouchner said. “I think in the second round he will be the winner, too.” He said the “legitimacy” of the election was the most important thing. “For this democratic process, most of the Afghans and international soldiers have taken risks,” he said. He admitted the “election was marred with widespread fraud, but there were also international observers.” Any second round would have to be held quickly, he said. “My concern is about coming of the winter, the management of the second round and security,” he said.

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On Saturday, U.S. Sen. John Kerry — who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — urged President Barack Obama not to send more troops to Afghanistan before the results of the election are clear. “It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working in, with,” Kerry told CNN’s John King in an interview set to air Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that she expects Karzai to be declared the winner outright. “It is likely that they will find that President Karzai got very close to the 50-plus-1,” she said in an exclusive CNN interview, referring to the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff. “I think one can conclude that the likelihood of him winning a second round is probably pretty high.” Clinton said the timing of Obama’s decision on whether to commit more troops to the fight in Afghanistan will not hinge on the election results. “I think the president is expecting to make a decision on his own timetable,” she said, “when he is absolutely comfortable with what he believes is in the best interest of the United States.” The Afghan ambassador to Washington, Said Jawad, said Thursday any runoff would have to be held quickly. He said a two-week deadline, as spelled out in the Afghan constitution, would be “impossible,” but added that the voting should be held in either late October or early November. The final vote tally would be expected two weeks later. If the election were not held by early November, he said, winter weather would make voting impossible and force a delay until spring of 2010. Such a delay, he warned, would be a “recipe for disaster” that would create confusion in Afghanistan and heighten tension between the United States and Karzai’s government.

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