Afghan election officials declare Karzai president - again

Afghanistan's election commission proclaimed President Hamid Karzai the victor of the country's tumultuous ballot today, cancelling a planned runoff and ending a political crisis that began with a fraud-marred first round two and a half months ago.



The Obama administration — which has been waiting for a government deemed legitimate to emerge in Kabul before announcing whether to deploy tens of thousands more troops — quickly welcomed the result.

"We congratulate President Karzai on his victory in this historic election and look forward to working with him" to support reform and improve security, the US Embassy said in a statement. Britain and the United Nations also issued statements of congratulations.

The cancellation of Saturday's vote came one day after former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah announced he was pulling out less than a week before the 7 November vote. Abdullah said the ballot would not have been fair and accused the Karzai-appointed Independent Election Commission of bias.

The annulment is a huge relief to organisers who were scrambling to hold the election before the onset of Afghanistan's harsh winter, as well as authorities who feared a wave of bloody violence on polling day after a Taliban spokesman threatened attacks against anyone who took part.

Independent Election Commission chairman Azizullah Lodin announced Karzai the winner during a news conference in Kabul.

"His excellency Hamid Karzai, who has won the majority of votes in the first round and is the only candidate for the second round, is declared by the Independent Election Commission as the elected president of Afghanistan," Lodin said.

Lodin said that the commission had the authority to make the decision because the Afghan constitution only allows for a runoff between two candidates. There is a chance that the decision could be contested, but the international community appears to be lining up behind the ruling.

The US statement said the commission's decision was "according to its mandate under Afghan law."

Karzai has led Afghanistan since US forces invaded to oust the Taliban in 2001. He won elections in 2004 and his latest victory will give him another five-year mandate. The US will have to find a way to work with the Afghan leader, who has fallen out of favor in Washington after openly criticizing US military tactics, including the heavy use of air power that has killed many civilians.

The mass ballot-box stuffing that characterized the Aug. 20 vote further sullied Karzai's reputation. Fraud investigators threw out nearly a third of Karzai's votes, dropping him below the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright.

Worried that Karzai's government would not be seen as legitimate, a bevy of international figures, including US Sen. John Kerry, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pressed Karzai to consent to a runoff.

But on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in Kabul on a surprise visit, welcomed the decision to forego the runoff.

"This has been a difficult election process for Afghanistan, and lessons must be learned," said Ban. "Afghanistan now faces significant challenges and the new president must move swiftly to form a government that is able to command the support of both the Afghan people and the international community."

Last week, insurgents in suicide vests stormed a guest house in the heart of Kabul filled with UN election workers, killing five UN staffers and three Afghans. The attack raised questions about whether the world body might scale back its operations in the war-ravaged country.

But Ban promised Monday that the UN work would continue in Afghanistan despite the slayings. He also said Karzai had assured him Afghan security forces would work to protect his staff.

Ban told reporters that "we cannot be deterred, we must not be deterred. ... The work of the United Nations will continue."

The same day, however, the world body announced it would pull some expatriate staff out of Pakistan and suspend long-term development work in areas along the Afghan border because of violence.

The UN kept operating after an August 2003 truck bombing at its headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, including mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, but after a second bombing it shut down operations in Iraq in late October 2003 for years.

Meanwhile, Afghan authorities ordered all schools and universities closed for three weeks amid swine flu fears that were heightened Wednesday after the country registered its first death from the virus.

The Health Ministry said large gatherings at public baths and wedding halls will be forbidden for the same period. Many pedestrians and drivers making their way to work in the capital were wearing medical masks, which were being sold in markets and by street children.

Elsewhere, Nato-led forces said one Afghan girl was accidentally killed during an operation against militants in the southern province of Kandahar on Sunday. A joint Afghan-international force fired on two motorcycles carrying militants south of the city, killing a girl who was on one of the motorbikes, Nato said in a statement.

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
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
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
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

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on