Afghanistan's Karzai Agrees To Runoff Election
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in California.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris in Washington.
Afghanistan will hold a runoff election next month. President Hamid Karzai bowed to American and European pressure today. He announced he would accept investigators' findings that widespread fraud occurred during the presidential election two months ago.
BLOCK: Earlier today, President Obama said he spoke with Karzai.
President BARACK OBAMA: I wanted to congratulate him on accepting the certification of the recent election.
BLOCK: Previous results from the election suggested Karzai had won another term, but the findings by the Electoral Complaints Commission stripped him of close to a million votes.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kabul and has the story.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: With U.S. and UN officials at his side, Karzai urged his fellow Afghans to turn out for the November 7th runoff between him and his former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. But Karzai also made it clear during the news conference at the presidential palace that he still questions the UN backed panel's conclusion that he won the August election because of fraudulent votes.
President HAMID KARZAI (President, Afghanistan): (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: In his native Pashto, Karzai demanded an investigation into why so many ballots were cast out. That review, he added, could wait for now. U.S. Senator John Kerry, who met repeatedly with Karzai over the last few days, lauded the president for turning uncertainty into opportunity by agreeing to the runoff.
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): He showed statesmanship by deciding to move forward, and to strengthen the country by embracing the constitution and the rule of law.
NELSON: Kerry also praised Dr. Abdullah for reaching the same decision, but how this election will be different from the last one is far from clear. Abdullah's camp is demanding the same Afghan commission that ran the polls last time be relieved of duty. Wali Masood is one of Abdullah's campaign officials.
Mr. WALI MASOOD (Campaign Official for Abdullah Abdullah): We have to really propose our own idea about how to set up the commission because the so-called Independent Election Commission and all the appointees of Mr. Karzai, that again, they will engage themselves in rigging the votes off the people of Afghanistan.
NELSON: There are other obstacles besides fraud, like a severe shortage of election workers, looming winter weather and the growing Taliban threat. But there's still a chance of runoff won't be needed. Rumors that Karzai and Abdullah will form a coalition government continue to circulate.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
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