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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
News
i100
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

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style