Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce Tuesday whether he will accept findings that indicate he did not secure enough votes to win a second term.
Karzai is scheduled to speak at a news conference, a day after an independent analysis of election data found that the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission invalidated nearly a third of Karzai’s votes from the August 20 presidential election because of “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” Those findings brought Karzai under the 50 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff, according to analysis of the ECC’s results by non-governmental organization Democracy International. Tuesday’s news conference, which was announced by Karzai’s office, was delayed for several hours as Karzai presumably took part in last minute negotiations. It is unclear if Karzai will agree to a runoff vote or possibly negotiate some sort of power-sharing arrangement with his nearest challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. The ECC found Abdullah secured just under 32 percent of the vote, compared to Karzai’s 48 percent, according to Democracy International’s analysis. It is up to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission to call for a runoff. The IEC has yet to publicly respond to the ECC’s findings, although it is required to accept their recommendations under Afghan law. Abdullah told CNN he is prepared to participate in a runoff, but would also consider other alternatives. “While I am prepared to go for a runoff, at the same time the door is open,” Abdullah told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “There are some practical questions ahead,” he noted, citing winter, the security situation “and other realities on the ground.”
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Afghan election officials have tentatively set November 1 as the date for a runoff if one is necessary. If the election were not held by early November, winter weather would make voting impossible in some areas and force a delay until spring of 2010, according to Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad. Abdullah did not specify whether his openness to alternatives meant he would agree to participate in a power-sharing government or something else. “I think, before getting too specific … I need to get a mandate from my supporters,” he said. But, he added, his goal has always been “to bring changes to the country” rather than simply to get “one or two posts in the Cabinet.” The political turmoil takes place as U.S. President Barack Obama considers sending more troops to Afghanistan. The results of the election should be settled before the United States makes any decision on troop levels, according to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “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 that aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”
Kerry returned to Kabul on Monday “for a brief period to continue his consultations and discussions,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. He was also there over the weekend, before a brief visit to neighboring Pakistan. The United States and France are urging Karzai and Abdullah to respect the results of the August election in order to ensure the country has a legitimate government.