Western envoys: Expect run-off in Afghanistan election
The Paris meeting today was seen as an effort to pressure incumbent President Hamid Karzai amid the review of more than 1,000 complaints of voting fraud.
PARIS – Western envoys to Afghanistan meeting here Wednesday praised the Afghan people for holding the crucial Aug. 20 presidential election during war. But they also said the West should “be prepared for a run-off” if too many votes are ruled “irregular,” as Kai Eide, the top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan, put it in a separate interview.Skip to next paragraph
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If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held. The latest results show that incumbent president Hamid Karzai has 47.3 percent of the vote with more than 60 percent of the ballots counted.
The meeting of German, French, British, UN, and US envoys to Afghanistan was regarded as a show of unity and support in the midst of an Afghan mission seen as unpopular in Europe and dubbed by some US media as “Mr. Obama’s war.”
In European circles, the meeting was also seen as an effort to pressure Afghan President Karzai in the wake of some 1,000 complaints of ballot stuffing and fraud now under review, and to garner support for US efforts to target of irregular election behavior and corruption. Hosted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the gathering also included British envoy Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Germany’s Bernd Mutzelburg, US envoy Richard Holbrooke, Mr. Eide of the UN, and 22 other representatives.
Mr. Holbrooke sought to counter reports that he and the Obama administration were at odds with Mr. Karzai, now leading in the vote count over challenger Abdullah Abdullah. Holbrooke said he had met Karzai Aug. 23 for four hours and “no one shouted, and no one left the room” – though he added the meeting took place before the vote fraud charges were registered with the Afghan-led independent election commission.
Holbrooke stated the US government has “no candidate and no preference.... Whether there is a first round or a run off ... we want a fair process ... taking into account the election complaints commission.”
Election commission reviewing complaints
That commission is now going through nearly 1,000 complaints, of which 600 have been addressed, the envoys said – predicting they would finish the process by Sept. 17.