Karzai Decision On UN Recount Expected
(RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce shortly how he will "set the stage" for resolving his country's postelection political crisis.
The U.S. group Democracy International says a report by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) shows the number of votes invalidated by the group pushes Karzai's total below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at the State Department that Karzai plans to make an announcement on October 20, but she did not say whether he has decided to accept the findings of the investigation.
But Clinton said she was "encouraged" by the direction the process is taking.
The result raises the prospect that Karzai will need to participate in a runoff election if he wants to be seen as a legitimate leader in the eyes of his own people and the U.S. government and its NATO allies, many of which are helping fight the country's insurgents.
Under Afghanistan's Constitution, if none of the candidates receive 50 percent plus one vote, a second round is to take place between the two candidates who received the majority of the votes.
Results from the first election gave Karzai a first-round victory, with 54 percent of the vote. Karzai's main rival, Abdullah Abdullah received 28 percent of the preliminary tally. The adjusted results give Abdullah more than 30 percent.
The ECC has given its report to the Afghan-led Independent Election Commission (IEC), which is responsible for officially adjusting individual candidates' tallies and certifying the final results.
The IEC says it plans to announce a final result on the election later on October 20.
"Our commissioners are meeting now to discuss the figures sent by the ECC and will announce a final decision today," IEC spokesman Nur Mohammad Nur said.
Under Afghan law, the ECC's decisions and orders are final and binding, and the IEC is required to implement them in determining the final results.
Karzai has in recent weeks asserted that he is the rightful winner of the August poll. After the auditors' findings were released, UN spokesman Aleem Siddique said a runoff "isn't optional."
The White House is urging the Afghan government to do what's needed to assure a legitimate result.
On October 19, spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "Obviously, determinations are going to be made by the ECC, by the IEC, and then it's going to be incredibly important for the world to see that Afghan leaders are willing to make this process legitimate, and that's the process that we're encouraging."
Hours after the results were announced, Karzai pledged to "fully respect the constitutional order," according to a UN spokeswoman.
Michele Montas said Karzai made the pledge to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a telephone call.
In Kabul, Karzai campaign spokesman Wahid Omar said the president was waiting for a decision by the IEC.
"Once there is a final certified result and declared constitutionally by the Independent Election Commission, we have remained respectful to the process and we are definitely going to commit to that result and will respect that result," he said.
The new adjusted figures give the president's main rival Abdullah 31.5 percent of the vote, and on October 19, the former Afghan foreign minister said a runoff election would restore faith in the democratic process.
Speaking on U.S. National Public Radio, he said a second election "would not be perfect," but would correct the fraud that he says took place during the first election.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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