A major story out of Afghanistan, with implications for the US strategy in the region. The United Nations’ Electoral Complaints Commission has completed their work on the Afghan elections, tossing out so many fraudulent votes to bring Hamid Karzai under 50% in the first round of voting, necessitating a runoff. However, the UN commission must reconcile this result with a separate local election commission which backs Karzai:
“Now that we have the ECC orders, we expect the IEC (Independent Election Commission) to implement those orders with haste and move swiftly to issue the final certified results or the need for a runoff as required by Afghan electoral law,” said Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman in Kabul.
Ahead of the announcement pressure had been mounting on Karzai to accept a possible second-round vote against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, or work out a deal to break the deadlock.
The ECC announcement, originally expected over the weekend, was delayed under pressure from the IEC, which is considered to back Karzai and is responsible overall for the Afghan election. The IEC is almost certain to challenge the ECC’s findings.
This sets up the possible “brick wall” approach feared by US officials, where Karzai and his election commission refuses to accept the UN results, throwing the country into an uncertain period. Without consensus from the IEC and the ECC, there is almost no way to move forward. And within two weeks, heavy snow in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan would make a runoff election impossible until the spring, leaving the country with no leader for several months. And with the White House signaling yesterday that they would not make a decision on troops until the electoral situation was settled, that could lead to a policy paralysis.
US officials are reportedly pushing Karzai to accept the runoff or share power with the second-place finisher, ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Sen. John Kerry has been meeting with Karzai throughout the weekend.