Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, whose apparent theft of the recent election poses huge strategic problems
for the U.S. mission in his country, may submit
to a runoff election
. A second round of voting, tentatively scheduled
for Nov. 7, would pit Karzai, who is of Pashtun ethnicity, against
competitor Abdullah Abdullah, who is Tajik and Pashtun. Karzai's
perceived illegitimacy and corruption could exacerbate some of the most challenging aspects
of the war. His acquiescence
to the possibility of being voted out of office, then, could be a significant gain for American interests. UPDATE: Karzai has agreed to a runoff election.
- Why Would Karzai Submit? Foreign Policy's Renard Sexton explores
why Karzai might embrace a runoff he couldn't win. "Using our
conservative affected-vote estimates, the
situation remains fairly damning for Hamid Karzai. Assuming that the
results are equal to or less favorable than our estimates, it seems
likely that a runoff will ensue. With just four percent of cushion, it
would take a miracle for him to walk away with a majority after this,
where 20 percent of the vote is fraudulent, much from his tally. Dr.
Abdullah Abdullah is in the strongest position he has been in thus far,
and could conceivably win a run-off held in strict conditions." Sexton
asks, "Perhaps a coalition government or tribally negotiated solution
- Possible Karzai-Abdullah Coalition Government ABC News' Jake Tapper reports
that the White House may settle on a coalition government in Kabul to
include Karzai as well as Abdullah. "Officials seem less worried today
than they were over the weekend
that Karzai will refuse to participate in either a run-off or some sort
of unity government, in which Karzai appoints some Abdullah supporters
as ministers in his administration and adopts some of Abdullah’s
platform including anti-corruption efforts and greater efforts at
transparency. At times, the formation of a unity government has seemed
to have more traction." Tapper explains why, for all his faults, Karzai
matters. "Karzai told Clinton he's concerned about how such a move
received by his supporters, many of whom are Pashtun and from Southern
and Eastern Afghanistan – from where the Taliban is having some
- Why a Runoff Could Be a Bad Idea National security expert Juan Cole warns that a runoff presents "the potential for violence" in Afghanistan. "If the runoff is held this fall, it will
exclude many Afghans who live in snowy places or high altitudes, since
winter is arriving in some of the country," he writes "There is also
danger of Pashtun-Tajik violence, since the two ethnic groups are
backing different candidates." The Guardian agrees, "There is nothing to guarantee that a second round will not be plagued
by the same problems as the first, and the turnout will be lower,
because there will be no provincial elections to boost numbers."
- Viable Alternative Governments The Guardian has no faith
in Karzai, Abdullah, or a power-sharing coalition. "The alternative is
to appoint an international chief
executive to run the country, making Mr Karzai a titular head," reads
the paper's editorial. "Forming an interim government, or convening a loya jirga to
include the widest range of participants, could both be ways
re-establishing the legitimacy that the Karzai regime has squandered.
The new government could buy itself some breathing space if it
accompanied a ceasefire offer to the Taliban with a future commitment
to the withdrawal of all foreign troops. This is a chance, possibly the
last one, for the key Afghan power-brokers to act in the interests of
their country, not merely their own interests."
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