In Afghanistan, Karzai Gets a Second Term

NEW YORK, November 2, 2009 -- Hamid Karzai has won a second term as president of Afghanistan after his only remaining rival, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the race. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) canceled a runoff scheduled for November 7.

Abdullah said at a press conference in Kabul on November 1 that he could not take part in a runoff he thought would be as fraudulent as the first round, held on August 20. Almost a million votes for President Karzai have been thrown out after a recount. "The decision which I am going to announce was not an easy one. It was a decision that I have taken after wide-ranging consultations, with the people of Afghanistan, my supporters and influential leaders," Abdullah told a crowd of supporters. "In protest against the misconduct of the government and the Independent Election Commission, I will not participate in the election," he added.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Kabul on November 2, meeting separately with President Karzai and Abdullah. He called the election process "difficult," but welcomed the IEC's decision and urged Karzai to form a government that would have the support of the Afghan people.

“Karzai emerges from this process weaker than ever," said Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl, who served as an election monitor in Kabul.

"Not only will he need to take immediate steps to counter the widespread corruption of his government, but he will also need to reach out to the Abdullah camp to try to find partners who can help address the near-total perception of the illegitimacy of the Karzai government within Afghanistan. The arrival of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Kabul on Monday indicates how strongly the international community is pushing for such a power-sharing agreement," said Metzl.

With U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision on troop levels expected soon, the eyes of the world will be on Kabul to assess whether a legitimate Afghan political authority can be created. If not, nothing can be done to save the Afghanistan state from eventual collapse,” he added.

By Alberto Riva, Asia Society Online