Hamid Karzai did not gain enough valid votes for an outright win, according to a panel probing fraud claims in the Afghan election.
Although preliminary results from August’s first round had placed Karzai comfortably over the 50% plus one vote threshold needed to avoid a run-off, the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) recommended that ballots from 210 polling stations be discounted.
Therefore, Karzai’s vote share has fallen below half and he now faces a run-off against his main rival Abdullah Abdullah.
On Monday, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) published the findings of its long-awaited investigation into poll fraud in Afganistan’s elections.
The panel said it had found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” at the polling stations, which were across the country.
“Diplomatic sources tell me that the figures clearly show Hamid Karzai is well below the crucial 50 per cent margin,” James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Kabul, reported.
Fazel Sancharaki, Abdullah’s campaign spokesman, welcomed the ECC’s findings, saying: “This is a step forward.”“I understand that key ambassadors are now meeting with the UN to discuss what is the next step, what is the way forward now that Hamid Karzai hasn’t reached the 50 per cent following this procedure by the Electoral Complaints Commission.”
It was not clear how Mr Karzai would respond to the ECC findings, amid reports of a possible legal challenge.
Initial results released last month had given Karzai nearly 55% of votes, with former foreign minister Abdullah (photo, from bbc.co.uk) on 28%, but allegations of massive fraid prompted the complaints commission’s investigation.
However, Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Karzai’s campaign, dismissed claims that the ECC report meant a runoff would be necessary.
Many Afghans have expressed frustration with the almost two-month dealy to the announcement of the country’s election results.“I do not know how any diplomatic source can come out with a result out of what has been said today,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We will keep our reaction reserved for when the final, certified results of the elections are annocuned [by the Independent Election Commission] and that will be legally binding for us.”
Though the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the Afghan electoral body which organised the vote, is still to announce the official results, the ECC’s findings are seen as key to the outcome.
The ECC has already been criticised by Karzai’s camp, and some fear that the Karzai-influenced election commission may refuse to call a run-off, because it would delay the formation of a government.
Omar told Al Jazeera that the Karzai camp was not aware of any dispute between the ECC and IEC.
US policy change
Over the weekend, hundreds of Karzai supporters protested in the south. They called for the IEC to release the result quickly and said they will reject a second round.
Gathering in the main street of the southeastern city of Spin Boldak, they shouted : “We want the result!” and “Karzai is our leader!”
This election deadlock has also complicated a major US review of its policy in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In order to step up its operations in the country, the US is considering a request by General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and Nato ground commander. to commit an extra 40,000 troops.
Yet Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff to the US president, has suggested that the US may not commit more troops to Afghanistan until a “credible and legitimate” government is in place.
The overriding question is not “how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner”, said Emanuel, while speaking on CBS talk show Face The Nation.