Karzai declared Afghan president, run-off cancelled

Karzai declared Afghan president, run-off cancelled

Kabul: Afghanistan’s election commission declared Hamid Karzai elected as president on Monday after it called off a runoff following the withdrawal of his only rival.

The run-off, called after the first round in August was marred by widespread fraud, was to have been held on 7 November.

“The Independent Election Commission declares the esteemed Hamid Karzai as the president ... because he was the winner of the first round and the only candidate in the second round," the commission’s chief Azizullah Ludin told a news conference.

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the race over the weekend, citing doubts about the credibility of the election process.

“There is no second round," the IEC’s chief electoral officer Daoud Ali Najafi told Reuters.

Earlier UN chief Ban Ki-moon made an announced visit to Kabul as diplomatic efforts gathered pace to resolve the prolonged political crisis.

“We continue to stand by the people of Afghanistan in their quest for prosperity and peace," Ban said.

The withdrawal of Abdullah from the run-off had cast doubts over the legitimacy of the next government, already under a cloud following the 20 August election marred by allegations of fraud in favour of Karzai.

A weakened Afghan government under Karzai would be a blow for US President Barack Obama as he considers whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to fight a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Karzai’s campaign said the president will issue a statement about the announcement of the election commission later in the day.

Karzai’s camp on Sunday ruled out a coalition with Abdullah, dashing hopes the two leaders could together find a way out of the impasse.

Abdullah left the door open for future discussions but said no deals had been struck in return for his withdrawal, seen by diplomats as one way to spare the country more uncertainty that discredits the government and can only aid the insurgency.

Ban ki-Moon met both Karzai and Abdullah, officials said.

A UN statement said the meetings were “to assure them and the Afghan people of the continuing support of the United Nations doubts over the credibility of his government.

Ban made the visit after five foreign UN staff were killed in a suicide attack last week on a Kabul guest-house used by the United Nations.

The attack was claimed by the Taliban, who have vowed to disrupt the run-off and said the guest-house was targeted because of the United Nations’ role in helping organise the Afghan election.

The run-off was ordered after a UN-led investigation panel found widespread fraud in favour of Karzai in the 20 August election.