Afghanistan braces for possible election run-off

Afghanistan plunged into a bout of intense diplomacy today as election officials were expected to announce whether President Hamid Karzai must face a run-off following a disputed presidential election.

The August 20 ballot, marred by allegations of widespread fraud, has left Afghanistan in a state of political disarray at a time when the United States is deciding whether to send more troops there to fight a resurgent Taliban.



There were widespread suggestions in Kabul that enough votes would be eliminated from Karzai's tally to trigger a run-off round against former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.



"The second round is definitely on the radar screen right now," said one official familiar with the process.



Nearly two months after polling day, the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) was due to unveil its findings of a probe into fraud allegations at some point over the the weekend.



A host of high-level foreign visitors descended on Kabul ahead of the announcemenet, including French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and US Senator John Kerry.



Washington's influential former ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was also in Kabul on a private visit, the US embassy said.



Separately, Karzai spoke by telephone to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, Karzai's office said.



It was unclear whether any of the visitors was meeting Karzai or Abdullah as speculation mounted that the two could seek a compromise deal to avoid a second round.



If enough votes were disqualified to push Karzai's share of the vote below 50 per cent, the incumbent would face Abdullah in a second round - barring possible legal steps to invalidate the decision or an Abdullah decision to withdraw.



The ECC is looking into various categories of suspected fraud and complaints, but only a portion of its recommendations are likely to be released today, officials said.



The ECC was holding closed-door meetings with independent Afghan election officials throughout the day. Once it has approved ECC findings, the Afghan election commission will adjust the tallies and announce the final result.



A run-off pitting Karzai against Abdullah would be due within two weeks. Security threats stemming from the insurgency and the onset of the bitter Afghan winter, which makes much of the country impassable, could undermine the effort.



Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the UN mission which appointed three of the ECC's five members, said preparations were under way for a possible run-off, including measures designed to eliminate any risk of repeated fraud.



Karzai won 54.6 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary figures. More than 250,000 votes would have to be thrown out from his tally for it to fall below 50 per cent.



In the United States, policy makers were closely watching the outcome of the protracted process that has sparked tension between Karzai and his Western backers.



Clinton told CNN in an interview she thought a second round was "likely", adding that a run-off would probably lead to a victory for Karzai.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin