Karzai declared Afghan poll winner

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - 00:36

Kabul: Afghanistan`s election commission proclaimed President Hamid Karzai the victor of the war-ravaged nation`s tumultuous ballot on Monday, canceling a planned runoff two and a half months after a fraud-marred first round.

Karzai`s challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the race Sunday because he said the vote would not be free or fair.

Independent Election Commission chairman Azizullah Lodin announced Karzai victor during a news conference in Kabul.

The chief electoral officer on the Karzai-appointed Independent Election Commission, Daoud Ali Najafi, confirmed the weekend runoff had been canceled but he gave no details. Another senior official on the commission also confirmed the second round was been called off.

The news came hours after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Kabul on a surprise visit, as international pressure mounted for a quick resolution to the country`s electoral turmoil.

Kazai and Abdullah had been in talks about the possibility of a power-sharing deal.

The cancellation of the weekend vote will be a huge relief to organizers, who were scrambling to hold the election before the onset of Afghanistan`s harsh winter, which was likely to close roads in the north and prevent voters from casting ballots. A bigger fear was security: A Taliban spokesman had threatened violence against anyone who took part.

Last week, insurgents in suicide vests stormed a guest house in the heart of Kabul filled with UN election workers, killing five UN staffers and three Afghans. The attack raised questions about whether the UN might scale back its operations in the war-ravaged country.

But Ban promised Monday that the world body`s work would continue in Afghanistan despite the slayings. He also said Karzai had assured him Afghan security forces would work to protect UN staff.

Ban told reporters that "we cannot be deterred, we must not be deterred. ... The work of the United Nations will continue."

Abdullah vows to work for change

Terming it as "painful" his
decision to withdraw from this week`s run-off presidential
elections, former Afghan foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah
today said he would continue to work to effect a fundamental
change in his country`s polity and governance.

"As far as those ideas which I started my campaign
based upon, which were the ideas for the full change and
betterment of the lives of the people of Afghanistan, I`ll
certainly promote those ideas," Abdullah told the popular
National Public Radio in an interview.

"I`ll call for the independence of the election
commission, because it`s because of that we suffered so much.
I`ll be calling for the independence of the judiciary and I`ll
fight for it. And I`ll be calling for changing in the system,
fighting against corruption and many, many things which our
people are suffering," Abdullah said.
On Monday, the world body announced it would suspend long-term development work in areas of Pakistan along the Afghan border because of violence.

India congratulates Karzai

India`s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
tonight spoke to Hamid Karzai over phone and congratulated him after that country`s Election Commission
declared him the winner in the elections.

US, UK congratulate Karzai

The United States and its allies
have congratulated Karzai on winning a second
term following a proclamation by the country`s election

The US embassy said in a statement that it looked
forward to working with Karzai to support reform and improve

The statement said the commission`s decision, made
after Karzai`s lone challenger withdrew, was "according to its
mandate under Afghan law."

The British government and the United Nations also
issued statements of congratulations.

"The government welcomes the decision by the Independent
Electoral Commission," a spokesman for UK PM Gordon Brown said, referring to the Afghan poll
watchdog`s decision to call off a one-man run-off which had
threatened to descend into farce.

"The Prime Minister has spoken to President Karzai to
congratulate him on his re-election. They discussed the
importance of the president moving quickly to set out a
unifying programme for the future of Afghanistan," he added.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - 00:36

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