Karzai's ambassador to the US says run-off a 'likely scenario'

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States has conceded that a run-off will likely be held to determine the winner of disputed August 20 elections following widespread allegations of fraud.


A run-off vote in the disputed Afghan presidential election is a "likely scenario", according to a senior aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, is the first member of his circle to speak publicly of plans for a new vote after allegations of major fraud in the August presidential election.

Afghan election authorities are expected to make an announcement on Sunday or Monday, Jawad added.

Allegations of widespread fraud

The August 20 vote, which was held amid a massive security operation, has been the subject of allegations of widespread fraud. The European Union mission claimed, within weeks of the vote, that it believed a quarter of all votes, or 1.5 million ballots, were suspect.

Preliminary election results gave Karzai, the incumbent president, more than 54% of valid votes tallied, putting him above the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off with his closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign affairs minister.

But an investigation into fraud has cut Karzai's vote tally to about 47%, a result that will trigger a run-off, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Citing officials familiar with the results, the newspaper said the tally by the independent Electoral Complaints Commission was due to be finalised on Friday.

Delays would be ‘a recipe for disaster’

Jawad said any new poll should be held quickly.

"The constitution requires a run-off be done within two weeks but that's impossible,” he told AFP. “So four weeks will push it into early November and that's the latest that it will happen because after that it will be extremely cold, especially in northern Afghanistan. But if it's delayed to spring, this is clearly a recipe for disaster - this creates a lot of confusion."

Karzai has passionately rejected charges of widespread irregularities, testing the patience of Western nations that were his key backers after the US-led military operation in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

Karzai's chief rival, Abdullah, said he was hopeful investigations into claims of ballot-stuffing would result in a run-off.

But he told AFP that if a run-off were not called, "those who are behind the fraud and tolerate fraud will be responsible for the consequences."

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