AFGHANISTAN

President Karzai agrees to November 7 run-off vote

President Hamid Karzai has accepted the election commission’s decision to hold a second round of the presidential election on Nov. 7 in hope of ending the post-electoral crisis that has gripped the nation since the initial Aug. 20 poll.

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted a decision by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday to hold a second round of the country's presidential election on November 7, ending a post-electoral crisis that has gripped the nation since the August 20 poll.

The decision to hold the run-off vote ends two months of intense diplomatic wrangling following multiple electoral fraud allegations.

Flanked by chief UN envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and US Senator John Kerry, Karzai made a televised statement on Tuesday, calling the decision to hold a second round “legal and constitutional”. 

The November 7 poll will pitch Karzai against former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

The IEC announced on Tuesday that Karzai had won 49.67 percent of the Aug. 20 poll, just short of the 50 percent majority needed to avoid a run-off.

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The announcement comes one day after the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” during the poll and ordered that ballots from 210 polling stations be discounted.

Provisional results announced last month gave Karzai 54.6 percent of the vote while Abdullah received 27.7 percent.

But the ECC findings - which followed numerous reports of widespread electoral irregularities - put the Afghan president under intense diplomatic pressure to concede that he did not legitimately win more than 50 percent of the vote, necessitating a run-off.

In his televised statement Tuesday, Karzai said he believed the run-off decision “strengthens the path towards democracy”.

As Karzai's closest challenger, Abdullah welcomed the decision. "We had hoped the president would accept the second round," said Abdullah spokesman Fazel Sangcharaki.

Foreign officials also hailed Karzai's public acceptance of the IEC's decision to hold a run-off.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke of Karzai's "statesmanlike" leadership in agreeing to a second round and called on Afghans to "come together to ensure that the democratic process continues as securely as possible".

"It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice," US President Barack Obama said in a statement following the announcement. He later called Karzai to express his appreciation for the Afghan leader's decision to agree to a run-off.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the new vote would pose "huge challenges" but praised Karzai for "his commitment to ensuring full respect for Afghanistan's constitution and its democratic processes".

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Afghanistan's decision to hold a run-off "proof of democracy".

"Having a second round seems to me to be very important because it is proof of democracy, and for Afghanistan to take the path of democracy is a good thing," he told France Info radio.

 

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