Abandoning Afghan Election 'Painful,' Challenger Says

Abdullah Abdullah i i

Abdullah Abdullah is seen after announcing his decision not to participate in Afghanistan's runoff election during a news conference Sunday in Kabul. On Monday, Abdullah told NPR that "massive fraud" in the presidential election made it impossible to go forward with a campaign. Musadeq Sadeq/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Musadeq Sadeq/AP
Abdullah Abdullah

Abdullah Abdullah is seen after announcing his decision not to participate in Afghanistan's runoff election during a news conference Sunday in Kabul. On Monday, Abdullah told NPR that "massive fraud" in the presidential election made it impossible to go forward with a campaign.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

Former Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah told NPR on Monday that it was a "painful decision" to drop out of the race to unseat Hamid Karzai, as the ex-foreign minister reiterated accusations of "massive fraud" that he said made it impossible to go forward with a runoff vote.

Abdullah on Sunday dropped out of the planned runoff, scheduled for Nov. 7, after months of bitter dispute over the results of the first round in August.

"This has been a painful decision," he told NPR's Morning Edition. He said the election "has been painful for all the massive fraud that has marred the process."

But Abdullah said he would continue to promote his agenda of reform and push for the independence of Afghanistan's election commission, which he accuses of bias in favor of Karzai.

"I will be in Afghanistan in opposition or in any other form," he said. "I will be willing to contact [Karzai] ... and to play the role of the loyal opposition."

The two sides had been in talks on a possible power-sharing deal, but in the interview with Renee Montagne, Abdullah said he had not been in touch with Karzai in the past few days. Referring to any fallout from the cancelled runoff, the former foreign minister said he would let Karzai "clear up this mess" before deciding what role, if any, he would play in the new government.

Abdullah warned that Afghanistan is at a crossroads and could either become a moderate, democratic, Islamic country, "or a Taliban-type, al-Qaida-type sort of regime that will be a threat not only to the people of Afghanistan but for the rest of the world.

"This is the last chance [for] Afghanistan," he said. "Any decision we make today will affect us in the next 20 years — if we have that 20 years, or even 10 years."

Abdullah also did not hide his bitterness toward Karzai.

"He has been the prime beneficiary of the golden opportunity that has been provided Afghanistan in the past eight years," Abdullah said. Karzai has been "the prime responsible person for what has happened in this country," Abdullah added.

Abdullah said his campaign had surmounted "odds you can imagine and even that you cannot imagine." He said he had been fighting for Afghanistan for more than 25 years and would continue working for the nation's welfare.

Abdullah said his definition of success in Afghanistan was a "legitimate government, accountable and efficient ... which can deliver to its own people and could be a credible partner to the United States and the international community."

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