Karzai 'victory' provokes fresh crisis between Kabul and West

Even opponents of the President have closed ranks behind him after the UN ordered a recount into the disputed election results

Afghanistan was plunged into crisis over its disputed elections yesterday, with Hamid Karzai passing the 50 per cent threshold to make him outright winner but locked in an escalating confrontation with the West over allegations of massive fraud.

To add to the growing chaos, the two monitoring bodies for the election were at loggerheads. A United Nations- backed commission, the Election Complaints Commission (ECC), with Western representatives forming a majority, yesterday ordered a recount of ballots because of the alleged voting malpractice. But that demand was challenged by a second, Afghan-dominated body, the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which went on to publish the results, effectively giving Mr Karzai victory.

In proceedings descending into near farce, the chief electoral officer of the IEC claimed the recounting order had been lost in translation. He had, he continued, sent it back to the ECC "because the Persian version of the document did not match the English version". The official, Daoud Ali Najafi, declared at first that the ECC demand contradicted the polling criteria for the election. He later stated that if the order was indeed to carry out recounts, "we will have to do it, but it will take a long time, maybe two or three months".

With almost 92 per cent of the polling sites tallied, Mr Karzai has 54.1 per cent of the vote with his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, far behind on 28.3 per cent. The rest of the votes to be counted are from the Pashtun south, the President's constituency, which should add to his majority.

However ballots from more than 600 polling stations have been quarantined and there have been 720 major charges of fraud which could lead to large numbers of votes being declared invalid. In the event of Mr Karzai being stripped of his majority, a run-off would be necessary with Dr Abdullah. However the delay mentioned by Dr Najafi means this would not be possible until the winter, when much of northern Afghanistan is cut off by snow. In that eventuality, the second round could not take place until next spring.

The polls, presented as defining evidence of Afghanistan's democratic evolution and at the centre of American and British policy in the region, have had an increasingly divisive influence in sectarian terms. In the eyes of many in the country, they have brought the democratic process into disrepute.

While Western diplomats and opposition politicians register their disgust over reports of ballot stuffing, a growing number of Afghans, not all of them Karzai supporters, are resentful of what they consider undue foreign influence over the election.

The US and UK have consistently stressed that these elections, unlike the ones of five years ago, are Afghan- organised – a sign of the progress made in establishing civic society since the war. The ECC comprises an American, a Canadian and a Dutch national – all UN-appointed – and two Afghans selected by a local human rights organisation and the supreme court. Yet it is this body, with foreigners a majority and, by all accounts, dominant in making decisions, which has sweeping powers – nullifying votes it deems to be fraudulent, ordering recounts of votes, or ordering fresh voting.

One Afghan analyst, Waheed Mujhda, said: "There is a view among the Pashtuns in particular that the Americans don't want Karzai and they are trying to delay his victory as long as possible. But a lot of all Afghan people, of all sections of society, are getting annoyed because this is a sovereign nation, but it is foreigners lecturing to us what to do in our election."

The unravelling of the electoral process comes against the backdrop of a relentless war. Yesterday morning, as the ECC was sending its recount order to the IEC, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Nato's security gate at Kabul airport, killing three civilians. While the disputed victory for Mr Karzai was being announced at the city's Intercontinental Hotel, fierce fighting erupted at Kunar, in the east of the country, with four American soldiers killed.

At the press conference, Dr Najafi was repeatedly asked why his organisation had passed as valid ballot returns which showed Mr Karzai winning by "incongruous" margins of 95 per cent and 98 per cent. He responded: "If all the documentation is right then we pass them even if they are 95 per cent. That is usual in Afghanistan."

In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper Mr Karzai said he was "not a puppet of the United States" and attacked the British and American media for "lacking respect" over the electoral process and attempting to "delegitimise" the future government of Afghanistan. There had been fraud in the election, he admitted, but it was not something which could be avoided in a growing democracy.

Today is Ahmed Shah Masoud Day, commemorating the murder of the legendary Tajik Northern Alliance commander by al-Qa'ida eight years ago. Masoud is the beloved hero of the Tajiks and if, as expected, the Tajik candidate Dr Abdullah announces today that he rejects Mr Karzai's claim of victory, his declaration could be accompanied by angry Tajik protests.

Post-election: What happens next?

First scenario Declare Mr Karzai the winner as he has passed the 50 per cent benchmark, certifying the results with only a perfunctory attempt at checking the fraud allegations. Protests from Abdullah and other candidates would follow.

Second scenario A more thorough examination of ballot stuffing claims, with partial reruns if necessary. Mr Karzai will still emerge as the winner in this narrative, and the West can claim that all attempts have been made to establish fairness. Protests from Abdullah and others may ensue anyway.

Third scenario Unsparingly rigorous checks on the fraud, with Mr Karzai stripped of his majority and a second round forced. However, the timescale, with the Afghan winter closing in, may mean this would be impossible until next Spring – and the Pashtun supporters of the President would claim that he had been prevented from returning to power by the US.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
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
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform