Afghan chaos as Abdullah pulls out of election

Dilemma for Washington as second round becomes a one-horse race for Karzai

Afghanistan has been thrown into fresh political crisis after the presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah withdrew yesterday from a poll run-off scheduled for Saturday. The move in effect clears the way for Hamid Karzai to retain power despite the fact that he was stripped of his first round election majority because of rampant fraud. A weakened Karzai administration, shorn of electoral legitimacy, represents a major blow to Western powers as they consider whether to send more troops to Afghanistan for the military campaign against the Taliban.

The US administration played a key part in forcing Mr Karzai to accept a second round to give the election process validity. Yesterday Washington was left insisting that the withdrawal of one runner in a two-horse race would not delegitimise the proceedings. "I don't think it has anything to do with the legitimacy of the election." the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said,adding: "It's a matter of personal choice."

But Mr Abdullah withdrew after last minute attempts by American and UN officials to broker a power-sharing deal foundered. In an emotional announcement the former foreign minister said: " As far as I'm concerned, the decision I have reached is not to participate. I have strong reservations about the credibility of the process."

Afghan officials were still insisting the second round would go ahead despite Mr Karzai has no opposition. They said both names would be on the ballot. Mr Abdullah said he was standing down because his demands for a fraud-free poll had not been met and he ruled out a coalition deal with Mr Karzai.

The presidential elections were meant to showcase the progress made towards democracy since the overthrow of the Taliban. Instead they have been mired in uncertainty.

With attempts to engineer a deal between the two Afghan protagonists failing senior Western diplomats were reduced to pleading with Mr Abdullah to "withdraw" from rather than "boycott" the polling and to desist from focusing on fraud and further weaken the credibility of governance in the country.

They were only half successful. Mr Abdullah said he had "decided not to participate" in the next round but then repeatedly stated that the reason he was doing so was because the refusal by Mr Karzai to carry out the reforms he had demanded exposed the run-off to same malpractice as the previous round. "In protest against the illegal actions of the government and the electoral commission, I will not participate in the run-off of the second round of the presidential election" he said.

In his withdrawal speech Mr Abdullah sought the moral high ground by declaring that he had not sought a position in a coalition with Mr Karzai and had taken his decision as a change of direction from the old order. However, senior diplomatic sources told The Independent that horse trading had been going on over ministries between Mr Karzai and Mr Abdullah with the interests of former president Burhanuddin Rabani also represented late into Sunday night, and then until two hours before Mr Abdullah's public statement of withdrawal yesterday morning.

Mr Abdullah had wanted to put supporters, rather than himself, into Mr Karzai's cabinet. There was no direct contact between the two men, instead messages were ferried between Kai Eide, the head of the UN mission, who has been speaking to Mr Abdullah and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador, who was liaising with Mr Karzai.

Mr Karzai's campaign spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the decision was "very unfortunate" but also held that the run-off should proceed. "We believe that the elections have to go on," he said. "The people of Afghanistan have to be given the right to vote."

But UN spokesperson Aleem Siddique raised doubts. "The obvious question is how does one have a run-off with just one candidate." In London, Gordon Brown said he was sure Mr Abdullah's decision was "carefully considered" adding "I am confident that Afghanistan's leaders will support the remaining steps of the democratic process."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

Geography Teacher

£110 - £200 per day + pension and childcare: Randstad Education Maidstone: Geo...

KS1 Teacher

£110 - £120 per annum + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: KS1 Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice