Diplomats Try To Resolve Afghan Political Crisis

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There has been a political vacuum in Afghanistan since the disputed presidential election in late August. An investigation into allegations of widespread election fraud has wrapped up. The probe indicates President Karzai did not get more than 50 percent of the vote, which means there should be a runoff election. Diplomats have been trying to persuade Karzai to accept a runoff or power-sharing agreement.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's Jackie Northam has been following developments in Afghanistan and she joins us now from Kabul. Good morning.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now Jackie, I gather not just Dr. Abdullah, but also President Karzai of course has had a lot of the same visitors from the international community, a lot of negotiations over the past few days trying to solve this political crisis. What are they saying?

NORTHAM: Well, you're right, Renee. There has been a full diplomatic push here in Afghanistan to try and find a way out of this political impasse. There have been phone calls from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon just to name a few.

Also, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was here over the weekend and he met with Karzai twice. But you know, it appears Karzai has dug in his heels. And despite this full court diplomatic press, there has been no forward motion in resolving this crisis.

MONTAGNE: What about this run off, which is the obvious and for Afghanistan constitutional solution were it to be found that enough votes were fraud that President Karzai did not get a majority of the vote, what about the possibly of a runoff election?

NORTHAM: Certainly Karzai's campaign people and Western officials we talked with say this is a nonstarter for President Karzai. They say President Karzai feels the results of the fraud investigation are politically motivated and that there has been what he calls foreign interference in the investigative process. Three of the five members of the original investigative panel are Westerners who were appointed by the United Nations, so that's where that stems from.

But, you know, this theme of foreign interference is gaining currency here. We've got reports that about two dozen Afghan parliamentarians met with U.S. Embassy officials this weekend asking them not to put pressure on Karzai, not to interfere in this process, and these members of Parliament, presumably Karzai supporters, say that the international community is just pushing for a coalition government and, you know, certainly there are negotiations under way for a power sharing deal.

MONTAGNE: And that power sharing deal, we did hear from Dr. Abdullah the suggestion that he would certainly be opened to that. What about President Karzai?

NORTHAM: Well, many people here feel that may be the solution. You know, first of all a runoff is costly and it would have to be done very soon because of the incoming winter weather, and there's certainly no guarantee that there would be less fraud the second time around. And as we understand it, Karzai has not outright rejected this option, not like he did with the runoff option.

And there are negotiations going on between him and Dr. Abdullah and we understand that the intermediaries again are officials from the U.N. and France and Britain, and the U.S., but there are some sticking points. You know, we understand that Dr. Abdullah wants ten miniseries if they form some sort of coalition government. And then he wants to appoint his own governors as well. So there's a long way to go, but you know, the whole power sharing idea looks like a much more viable option, certainly, than a runoff.

MONTAGNE: Jackie, thank you.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Jackie Northam speaking to us from Kabul.

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