Abdullah to call for Afghan poll boycott

Last-minute talks under way to salvage run-off elections as President's rival threatens to withdraw

The elections in Afghanistan, meant to showcase the progress made towards democracy, are in fresh disarray, sowing fear and uncertainty about the country's future. The campaign manager of Abdullah Abdullah, the challenger to President Hamid Karzai, said last night that his man intends to call today for a boycott of next Saturday's election run-off. This was organised after the first round of polls became mired in corruption and controversy. Dr Abdullah will now call for a spring poll.

Last night, however, frantic talks were being held between the Abdullah and Karzai camps, brokered by the United Nations, US and Britain. The restarted negotiations centred on the division of ministries between the two protagonists.

Senior diplomatic sources said that the UN was desperate to avoid a second-round run-off because of the security and logistical problems. The main sticking point appeared to be the demands of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former mujahedin commander who is demanding his share of portfolios in a coalition government.

Dr Abdullah, the former foreign minister, will hold a public rally today, at which he is expected to announce whether or not he will continue in the contest. Although Dr Abdullah himself has remained silent, his supporters have been busy spreading the word that their candidate will withdraw because there is bound to be malpractice in the next round of voting as well.

Yesterday Dr Abdullah cancelled a visit to India for a "leadership conference" where he would have met senior US political figures. The Americans, who had played a key part in forcing President Karzai to accept a second round, now appear to accept that a further vote would have little legitimacy.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born former US ambassador to the country, who had been attempting to broker a deal between Mr Karzai and Dr Abdullah, said the latter was dropping out for two reasons. "First, he does not have much money left, and second, he thinks that, given the situation, he's likely to lose, and maybe he'll get less votes than he did in the first round, which would be embarrassing."

There is a widespread consensus that Mr Karzai, coming from the majority Pashtun population, will emerge the winner. Dr Abdullah is of mixed Pashtun and Tajik parentage, but his support is broadly restricted to the Tajik community. Other minority groups, such as the Hazaras and Uzbeks, appear to have been bought off by deals made with the incumbent.

According to Afghan sources, Dr Abdullah, aware that his bargaining position would be weaker following a defeat, has been pressing for a power-sharing arrangement under which a number of his supporters would receive ministerial posts. Mr Karzai, still smarting from being forced into the run-off, has insisted that any deal would have to wait until after the voting.

The political crisis in Afghanistan comes against the background of another crisis – that of the deteriorating security situation. As the electoral process was unfurling in Kabul, US President Barack Obama was deep in consultation with his advisers on future strategy in a war that is being increasingly called his "Vietnam". General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has asked for up to 40,000 more troops. Vice-President Joe Biden, however, opposes further deployment of forces and wants to concentrate on a counter-terrorist mission, hunting al-Qa'ida along the Pakistani border and beyond.

Both courses would necessarily entail further American and Nato losses, with questions already being asked in America and Europe about why their soldiers are fighting and dying for an Afghan government that is internationally labelled as corrupt.

The extent of ballot-rigging at the last election was illustrated by the latest inquiries into the manipulation of women's votes, which has a particular irony, say critics, as one reason given by the US and Britain for the invasion of 2001 was female emancipation. In at least a dozen cases men turned up at polling stations carrying bundles of voting cards supposedly from female members of extended families.

The second-round ballot was supposed to eliminate such corrupt practices. Last week Dr Abdullah presented a list of demands to be met for him to remain in the run-off. This included the sacking of the chief of the Independent Election Commission, Azizullah Lodin, seen as a Karzai placeman, the removal of a large number of election monitoring staff whose performance had been suspect, and the closure of hundreds of "ghost polling stations" where large-scale ballot stuffing was supposed to have taken place.

The commission stated that Mr Lodin cannot be fired while the voting process continued. It agreed to the replacement of 200 election officials, but announced it will open 6,322 sites, up from 6,167 in the first round and significantly above the 5,817 recommended by the United Nations.

Haroun Mir, head of Afghanistan's Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said that Dr Abdullah is thought to have pressed for a caretaker government and fresh elections early next year, by which time Mr Karzai would have had less of a grip on the state apparatus to influence voting.

"Even now a compromise is something which would be welcomed by the Afghans and the international community. If voting goes ahead without Dr Abdullah taking part, there would be questions of legitimacy over Mr Karzai's win," he said.

However another analyst, Waheed Mujhda, said: "There is a feeling among Afghans that this second round was the wish of the foreigners as a way of punishing Karzai. It was the West which wanted it, not Afghans."

Mr Karzai's campaign spokesman, Noor Akbari, said that Dr Abdullah should not be allowed to avoid the second round: "In our constitution we have no other way but to go through with an election. If anybody boycotts, it's a crime and it's an illegal act."

The constitution, in fact, says no such thing. However, it does stipulate that the leader of country must be chosen in an election which is transparently fair and recognised as being such. That is a condition which looks unlikely to be fulfilled in the next turbulent chapter of democracy coming to Afghanistan.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam