Karzai vows clean, inclusive government
Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged to unify Afghans with a representative government that would fight corruption in his first speech since being declared winner of the fraud-ridden presidential election.
A day after he was finally declared the winner of Afghanistan’s fraud-ridden election, Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed to reach out to all Afghans to form an inclusive government that will “eradicate the stain” of corruption that has plagued his administration.
At a press conference in Kabul Tuesday, Karzai also appeared to hold out the possibility of talks with the Taliban following one of the most violence-riddled periods following the 2001 fall of the Taliban. "We call on our Taliban brothers to come home and embrace their land," said Karzai.
Flanked by his campaign running mates, including the controversial former warlord Marshal Muhammad Fahim, Karzai acknowledged the criticisms of corruption his administration has been facing and pledged to “strive, by any means possible, to eradicate this stain”.
Karzai’s address Tuesday capped an often acrimonious period of political stasis following the flawed Aug. 20 poll, amid mounting international alarm over the dwindling security situation in the impoverished, war-torn country and fears of civil unrest between Afghanistan’s major ethnic groups.
The Afghan president was only declared the winner of the Aug. 20 poll after his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, bowed out of the run-off race citing discontent over Karzai’s failure to implement changes in the Afghan electoral process.
An ‘olive branch’ to Abdullah
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in his first remarks since being declared president, Karzai Karzai referred to Abdullah as a “worthy opponent, a worthy competitor” and said it would have been better if Abdullah had participated in a run-off, which was scheduled for Nov. 7 following Karzai’s failure to win more than 50 percent of the vote.
According to official results of the fraud-marred poll, Karzai won 49.67 percent of the vote while Abdullah won just over 30 percent.
Reporting from Kabul, Jerome Starkey, GRN correspondent for FRANCE 24, noted that Karzai “appeared to be extending the olive branch particularly to Abdullah.”
A Tajik-Pashtun former Afghan foreign minister, Abdullah enjoys wide popularity among the country’s ethnic Tajik community while Karzai’s support base stems from the majority Pashtun community.
According to Starkey, Karzai’s conciliatory gesture to Abdullah was an “important message to people in Kabul who might have feared that with Abdullah defeated, his supporters, the largely Tajik group, could have been disenfranchised and that it could lead to violence or civil unrest.”
Taliban rips ‘puppet president’
The prolonged period of uncertainty following the presidential election was marred by deadly Taliban attacks as the power vacuum in Kabul thwarted progress on a proposed policy of politically engaging with some elements of the Taliban.
But in its response to Karzai’s second elected term in office, the Taliban dismissed Karzai as a "puppet president".
In a statement released to the AFP news service, the Taliban said the cancellation of the Nov. 7 run-off showed that “decisions on Afghanistan are made in Washington and London, while the announcements are made in Kabul.”