Karzai Agrees to Nov. 7 Runoff in Afghanistan
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and SHARON OTTERMAN
New York Times, October 20, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai’s concession of the need for a runoff election in Afghanistan appears to have prevented his country from slipping into paralysis, but has created a new landscape of risks and uncertainty.
Mr. Karzai’s concession was a critical first step toward creating a credible Afghan government, coming after heavy pressure from European and American officials, including veiled threats that his actions could affect pending decisions about troops levels, according to one American official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.
But diplomats immediately questioned whether a new vote could be arranged before the announced date of Nov. 7, and whether a second round of balloting would have more security or less fraud than the first, in which nearly a quarter of ballots were thrown out by international auditors. “There are huge constraints to delivering in the second round,” said one Western official. “Can you deliver a result that is any different from the one we’ve already got?”
The host of uncertainties left open the prospect of what administration officials and their Western allies expect will be three weeks of ferocious horse-trading as Mr. Karzai and his principal challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, decide whether they can strike a deal to actually avert a runoff, which would carry enormous political risks for both of them, as well as strategic one for the United States and its allies.
Diplomats said the efforts to get the two men to join forces would now intensify. Mr. Abdullah has hinted he would be open to negotiate, but Mr. Karzai, at a news conference here on Tuesday, seemed to rule it out.
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