Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah may boycott runoff election

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sources close to Afghanistan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said that he may pull out of next week's runoff election against President Hamid Karzai, due to concerns about the credibility of the poll.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah
Image: U.S. DoD photo by R. D. Ward..
President Hamid Karzai
Image: Paul Morse.

Abdullah had given Karzai until Saturday to remove the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) chief, Azizullah Lodin.

It was one of several conditions that Abdullah had voiced this week to avoid a repeat of the massive fraud that marred the August 20 presidential election. As of Saturday, Karzai had not agreed to his opponent's requests.

Abdullah is expected to hold a press conference on Sunday about the planned vote, scheduled for November 7. News reports cited sources close to the former foreign minister as saying that Abdullah may pull out of the runoff.

A spokesman for the Afghan election commission, Noor Mohammad Noor, however, said that legally, Abdullah cannot officially withdraw a week away from the vote. "Now is too late, according to IEC procedure of the election law, the withdraw time is already done, so they must continue," he said to the Voice of America news agency.

Speaking from Kabul, the director of Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, Haroun Mir, said a boycott would have a major impact on the public's perception of the country's government. "If Dr. Abdullah boycotts and we have a very low voter turnout, then President Karzai will be declared winner, but he will not be considered a legitimate president," said Mir.

Mir said that he believes Karzai would have a hard time asserting his authority in Afghanistan's northern areas, which are the base for Abdullah's support.

Afghan election officials say they plan to increase the number of voting stations for the runoff, despite concerns that it could lead to more fraud than in the first vote.

The Taliban also promised to intensify its attacks leading up to the November 7 election. Several days ago, insurgents launched an attack on a Kabul guest house that killed five United Nations staff members.

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