Afghanistan’s Election Commission proclaimed President Hamid Karzai the victor of the country’s tumultuous ballot Monday, cancelling a planned runoff and ending a political crisis that began with a fraud-marred first round two-and-a-half months ago.
The Obama administration — which has been waiting for a government deemed legitimate to emerge in Kabul before announcing whether to deploy tens of thousands more troops — quickly welcomed the result.
“We congratulate President Karzai on his victory in this historic election and look forward to working with him” to support reform and improve security, the U.S. embassy said in a statement. Britain and the United Nations also issued statements of congratulations.
The cancellation of Saturday’s vote came one day after the former Foreign Minister, Abdullah Abdullah, announced he was pulling out less than a week before the November 7 vote. Mr. Abdullah said the ballot would not have been fair and accused the Karzai-appointed Independent Election Commission of bias.
The annulment is a huge relief to organisers who were scrambling to hold the election before the onset of Afghanistan’s harsh winter, as well as authorities who feared a wave of bloody violence on polling day after a Taliban spokesman threatened attacks against anyone who took part.
Independent Election Commission chairman Azizullah Lodin announced Mr. Karzai the winner during a news conference in Kabul.
“His excellency Hamid Karzai, who has won the majority of votes in the first round and is the only candidate for the second round, is declared by the Independent Election Commission as the elected president of Afghanistan,” said Mr. Lodin.
Mr. Lodin said that the commission had the authority to make the decision because the Afghan Constitution only allows for a runoff between two candidates. There is a chance that the decision could be contested, but the international community appears to be lining up behind the ruling.
The U.S. statement said the commission’s decision was “according to its mandate under Afghan law”.
Mr. Karzai has led Afghanistan since U.S. forces invaded to oust the Taliban in 2001. He won elections in 2004 and his latest victory will give him another five-year mandate. The U.S. will have to find a way to work with the Afghan leader, who has fallen out of favour in Washington after openly criticising U.S. military tactics, including the heavy use of air power that has killed many civilians.
The mass ballot-box stuffing that characterized the August 20 vote further sullied Mr. Karzai’s reputation. Fraud investigators threw out nearly a third of Mr. Karzai’s votes, dropping him below the 50 per cent threshold needed to win outright.