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One candidate run-off vote likely to take place despite Abdullah's withdrawal

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-01

Election officials say that according to the Afghan constitution the November 7 vote should take place despite the withdrawal of opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah, leaving incumbent Hamid Karzai as the only candidate.

Presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday pulled out of Afghanistan's run-off election, plunging the war-torn country into fresh political turmoil less than a week before the scheduled contest.

After President Hamid Karzai snubbed a series of measures put forward by Abdullah in a bid to avoid a repeat of the massive first-round fraud, Abdullah said he saw no point in standing in the second round, but stopped short of calling for a boycott.

Election officials said the November 7 vote would go ahead with both names on the ballot but with Karzai the only candidate.

"Based on election laws and based on the constitution there should be a second round. The constitution is clear," Daoud Ali Najafi, chief electoral officer of the government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC), told Reuters.

But a spokesman for U.N. mission chief Kai Eide voiced doubt about the practicality of carrying on with the election. "It's difficult to see how there can be a run-off with only one candidate," said spokesman Aleem Siddique.

Karzai's camp said it regretted the move but insisted the contest should go ahead, although analysts said the incumbent risked losing his legitimacy further with turnout likely to be well below the 38 percent recorded last time. Karzai's spokesman also ruled out a coalition with Abdullah, dashing hopes that a power-sharing government could be a way out of the impasse.

The Taliban, the Islamist militia behind a rising insurgency, said it intended to carry out new attacks if the election does take place as scheduled on November 7.

"The decision which I am going to announce was not an easy one. It was a decision that I have taken after wide-ranging consultations, with the people of Afghanistan, my supporters and influential leaders," Abdullah told supporters gathered in a giant tent used for grand assemblies. His voice faltered and his eyes filled with tears as he announced the news.

"In protest against the misconduct of the government and the Independent Election Commission (IEC), I will not participate in the election," he added in an address in Kabul. "I have strong, strong reservations about the credibility of the process", he later told reporters.

During a lengthy speech, the former foreign minister launched a scathing attack on the "eight years of lost opportunities" during Karzai's rule.

Date created : 2009-11-01


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