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Karzai 'victory' provokes fresh crisis between Kabul and West

Even opponents of the President have closed ranks behind him after the UN ordered a recount into the disputed election results

By Kim Sengupta in Kabul

A Nato soldier takes position as Afghan police carry a man injured in a blast outside the military airport in Kabul yesterday


A Nato soldier takes position as Afghan police carry a man injured in a blast outside the military airport in Kabul yesterday

Afghanistan was plunged into crisis over its disputed elections yesterday, with Hamid Karzai passing the 50 per cent threshold to make him outright winner but locked in an escalating confrontation with the West over allegations of massive fraud.

To add to the growing chaos, the two monitoring bodies for the election were at loggerheads. A United Nations- backed commission, the Election Complaints Commission (ECC), with Western representatives forming a majority, yesterday ordered a recount of ballots because of the alleged voting malpractice. But that demand was challenged by a second, Afghan-dominated body, the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which went on to publish the results, effectively giving Mr Karzai victory.

In proceedings descending into near farce, the chief electoral officer of the IEC claimed the recounting order had been lost in translation. He had, he continued, sent it back to the ECC "because the Persian version of the document did not match the English version". The official, Daoud Ali Najafi, declared at first that the ECC demand contradicted the polling criteria for the election. He later stated that if the order was indeed to carry out recounts, "we will have to do it, but it will take a long time, maybe two or three months".

With almost 92 per cent of the polling sites tallied, Mr Karzai has 54.1 per cent of the vote with his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, far behind on 28.3 per cent. The rest of the votes to be counted are from the Pashtun south, the President's constituency, which should add to his majority.

Video: Karzai gets ahead with 54.1% of vote

However ballots from more than 600 polling stations have been quarantined and there have been 720 major charges of fraud which could lead to large numbers of votes being declared invalid. In the event of Mr Karzai being stripped of his majority, a run-off would be necessary with Dr Abdullah. However the delay mentioned by Dr Najafi means this would not be possible until the winter, when much of northern Afghanistan is cut off by snow. In that eventuality, the second round could not take place until next spring.

The polls, presented as defining evidence of Afghanistan's democratic evolution and at the centre of American and British policy in the region, have had an increasingly divisive influence in sectarian terms. In the eyes of many in the country, they have brought the democratic process into disrepute.

While Western diplomats and opposition politicians register their disgust over reports of ballot stuffing, a growing number of Afghans, not all of them Karzai supporters, are resentful of what they consider undue foreign influence over the election.

The US and UK have consistently stressed that these elections, unlike the ones of five years ago, are Afghan- organised – a sign of the progress made in establishing civic society since the war. The ECC comprises an American, a Canadian and a Dutch national – all UN-appointed – and two Afghans selected by a local human rights organisation and the supreme court. Yet it is this body, with foreigners a majority and, by all accounts, dominant in making decisions, which has sweeping powers – nullifying votes it deems to be fraudulent, ordering recounts of votes, or ordering fresh voting.

One Afghan analyst, Waheed Mujhda, said: "There is a view among the Pashtuns in particular that the Americans don't want Karzai and they are trying to delay his victory as long as possible. But a lot of all Afghan people, of all sections of society, are getting annoyed because this is a sovereign nation, but it is foreigners lecturing to us what to do in our election."

The unravelling of the electoral process comes against the backdrop of a relentless war. Yesterday morning, as the ECC was sending its recount order to the IEC, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Nato's security gate at Kabul airport, killing three civilians. While the disputed victory for Mr Karzai was being announced at the city's Intercontinental Hotel, fierce fighting erupted at Kunar, in the east of the country, with four American soldiers killed.

At the press conference, Dr Najafi was repeatedly asked why his organisation had passed as valid ballot returns which showed Mr Karzai winning by "incongruous" margins of 95 per cent and 98 per cent. He responded: "If all the documentation is right then we pass them even if they are 95 per cent. That is usual in Afghanistan."

In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper Mr Karzai said he was "not a puppet of the United States" and attacked the British and American media for "lacking respect" over the electoral process and attempting to "delegitimise" the future government of Afghanistan. There had been fraud in the election, he admitted, but it was not something which could be avoided in a growing democracy.

Today is Ahmed Shah Masoud Day, commemorating the murder of the legendary Tajik Northern Alliance commander by al-Qa'ida eight years ago. Masoud is the beloved hero of the Tajiks and if, as expected, the Tajik candidate Dr Abdullah announces today that he rejects Mr Karzai's claim of victory, his declaration could be accompanied by angry Tajik protests.

Post-election: What happens next?

First scenario Declare Mr Karzai the winner as he has passed the 50 per cent benchmark, certifying the results with only a perfunctory attempt at checking the fraud allegations. Protests from Abdullah and other candidates would follow.

Second scenario A more thorough examination of ballot stuffing claims, with partial reruns if necessary. Mr Karzai will still emerge as the winner in this narrative, and the West can claim that all attempts have been made to establish fairness. Protests from Abdullah and others may ensue anyway.

Third scenario Unsparingly rigorous checks on the fraud, with Mr Karzai stripped of his majority and a second round forced. However, the timescale, with the Afghan winter closing in, may mean this would be impossible until next Spring – and the Pashtun supporters of the President would claim that he had been prevented from returning to power by the US.

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Decisions decisions
[info]fin_d_empire wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 07:38 am (UTC)
The Yanks and their vassals have yet again to make their minds up about which horn of the dilemma they want to be eviscerated by:

1- If they back the cheater Karzai, they lose all legitimacy for the puppet warlord regime in Kabul, and thereby forever forfeit the chance to topple the regimes they don't like by calling their elections fraudulent and starting "color revolution" riots (as they most recently did in Iran)
Here's what The Times said:
Widespread and systematic fraud during the Afghan presidential elections has tarnished the legitimacy of any future government and undermined the Nato campaign there, Western and Afghan officials have admitted.

Sound bad? How about this then:

2- If they call the election fraud out, they antagonize the Pashtun (Karzai's tribe) even more and drive them all into the arms of the Taliban. Let's see, successful counterinsurgency means you have to outnumber the guerrillas 4 to 1. 50-60 million Pashtuns, half of them carrying AK's and RPG's, sooo ... about 100 million NATO troops should do it. Well that shouldn't be a problem, right? Let's drop Karzai, let the Pashtun's sworn enemy the Northern Alliance take the election, and clobber the Pashtun into submission.

Crash Gordon must be pleased pink knowing that although his "Panther's Claw" operation in Helmand got about as many British kids killed in Helmand as total votes cast, Karzai's army of ghost voters came to the rescue just like in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I'm betting that since Crash says he loves Harry Potter, he's old enough to like Tolkien too.

Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai's supporters 'set up 800 fake polling stations'

Up to 800 fake polling stations were set up by Hamid Karzai's supporters to give him thousands of fraudulent votes in the Afghan presidential elections, it has been alleged.

The Telegraph, 07 Sep 2009

The "ghost" polling stations were reported by the New York Times to have returned thousands of votes for Mr Karzai when in fact they existed only on paper.

His followers also commandeered a further 800 polling stations and used them to report tens of thousands more fake votes, Western officials told the New York Times.

The rigging was so profound that in some provinces the number of pro-Karzai votes could be ten times the actual turn-out.
Re: We should leave them to their own fate
[info]maxxx_82 wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 08:35 am (UTC)
What are we fighting for? At the light of the shocking policies applied by the Taliban regime this question sounded very obvious back in 2001. However now things are changed and a lot of our soldiers have given their lives for little return. I completely lost faith in Afghanistan. I think that we can not force upon this people centuries of evolution, trying to civilize this place is just a lost cause and I think that we should let them drift back “freely” into the middle ages. Anyway there will always be hospitable grounds for backward obscurantism such as in Pakistan to turn simple minded fools into terrorists.
Re: Decisions decisions
[info]rain1950 wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 08:50 am (UTC)
Well maybe he learned from George Bush. He wasn't really elected in 2001 either now was he.
US guy could be a fraud? Really?
[info]rain1950 wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 08:35 am (UTC)
Ahmed Rashid, who has reported on Afghan wars for more than 20 years as a correspondent for the Eastern Economic Review and the Daily Telegraph, carefully documents in his book how the U.S. and Pakistan helped install the Taliban in hopes of bringing stability to the war-ravaged region and making it safer for the pipeline project.

The U.S. engineered the rise to power of two former Unocal employees: Hamid Karzai, the new interim president of Afghanistan, and Zalmay Khalizad, the Bush administration’s Afghanistan envoy.

Averny argues that the war on terrorism provides a perfect pretext for America’s imperial interests. “If one looks at the map of the big American bases created for the war, one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.”
Chicago Tribune
Mar 18, 2002
Re: US guy could be a fraud? Really?
[info]littleglimmer wrote:
Thursday, 10 September 2009 at 06:35 am (UTC)
The oil project long pre-dates even 9/11.
Give them a chance.
[info]mdroogpoppins wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 10:09 am (UTC)
Democracy takes a while to get used to.
I'd be willing to bet that, in another 30 or 40 years, Afghans will be singing our praises for all we have done for them. They'll be dancing in circles in the street while praising our military for turning their country into a land of milk and honey.
These things don't happen overnight. We must learn to be patient.
Re: Give them a chance.
[info]fin_d_empire wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 10:41 am (UTC)
Is this guy for real?
"They'll be dancing in circles in the street while praising our military for turning their country into a land of milk and honey."

Hey dogdroppings, get a load of this:

No Western fudge can fix the mounting Afghanistan election crisis

The Times, September 9, 2009

The mounting accusations of election fraud are a nightmare for the international community who installed Hamid Karzai as President in 2002.

All attempts to cultivate credible alternatives have failed. Even as Mr Karzai disappointed and even angered his Western supporters, he still remained their “least worst” option.

The US, Britain and other countries with a stake in Afghanistan’s security, including Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, expected Mr Karzai to emerge as the winner from these elections. But they had hoped for the race to go to a second round, giving at least the appearance of a proper democratic contest, rather than credible allegations of fraud on a massive scale.

It was Mr Karzai’s aides who leaked the news of his post-election bust-up with Richard Holbrooke when the US envoy suggested that there should be a run-off vote. For Mr Karzai, who has long battled accusations that he is a Western stooge, this was a gift, proof of his valiant stand against outside meddling.

But the meddling — inside the ballot boxes, at least — is being done by the President’s men.

This, foreign powers now realise, is what happens when you delegate the running of an election to officials in the pay of a corrupt central government intent on retaining power.
1 rule for US another for them
[info]anarchosurfer wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 12:31 pm (UTC)
When the Iranian elections were disputed the Imperialist powers were lining up to condemn the Iranian government and stir up dissent.

There will be no outcry by Western Leaders over this rigged election. They do not care about democracy only power. The US has a long history of overthrowing democracies and supporting dictators, they aren't going to change now and suddenly become honest.

It was the US that armed the Mujahadeen and the Taliban as well as arming and training Al Queda.

This is the culmination of Imperialist foriegn policy, started in the 19th Century by Britain and continued by America and Britain today. If you do not believe me google " The New American Century" where Rumsfeld Cheney etc lay out their plans to invade Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan etc long before Bush was first elected, these people want to rule the world.

Bring our soldiers home, arrest Blair and charge him with waging illegal wars.

Absolute mess
[info]prof_use wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 03:05 pm (UTC)
What a dreadful mess

The multitude of warnings were ignored. We should never have gone in but Blair followed Bush and now it's too late.

this mess is the inevitable outcome of global interference. Both Bush and Blair are no longer in power though Blair wants to be President of Europe!!!!Brown will surely follow and it will be up to Cameron and Obama to get us out. If those truly responsible were held to account Bush and Blair would be in prison. I wish we could take their fortunes and property off them to pay for the mess. I really resent having to pay for their dreadful policies. I do not forgive them and there is no amount of praying that they can do to alter that fact.

Making the world a safer place my a***. Never has it been more dangerous, never have there been more sites for the breeding of terrorists and terrorism

And this I regret to say will continue

On a lighter note will Labour try ballot box stuffing at the next election? They had a little go at fraud in Birmingham
This Could Get Nastily Diplomatic
[info]fredscribe1 wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 06:26 pm (UTC)
Oh dear me! Very difficult to accuse one's ally in the fight against terror of election fraud! And the elections are hailed as a 'sign of progress.' Mugabe-sized victory margins - how dreadfully embarrassing! Yes, he runs a choreographed shadow-figure government and we're losing young men over there trying to prop him up . . . . but no one seems to care. If tribal-style clashes and demonstrations erupt, well, perhaps they'll all shoot less often at us. But if someone should start to care, if this little touch of do-it-yourself democracy proves disastrous, PR-wise . . . . well, too much embarrassment could lead to a little (how does one put these things delicately?) 'enhanced enthusiasm' for anti-Kharzai demonstrations. We've done all of this before with our buddies: Saddam who? Were I Kharzai, I would be inclined to play ball and take another look at those ballot-boxes, there's a good chap. The US and UK record of relations with puppet-friends who start to talk and walk on their own is not good.
[info]voodoojedizin wrote:
Wednesday, 9 September 2009 at 08:47 pm (UTC)
The Americans have been trying to find a way get rid of Karzai for a while now. Remember just a few months back they were going to try to install an American as Afghan prime minister to share the power with him. Talk about the ultimate puppet.

American style democracy is a joke it doesn't really exist.
You actually think they have free elections in America? Maybe for dogcatcher.

If that's the case then explain how Americans get senators and congressmen elected and stay in office until they die or go feeble. You actually think the American people love them for a lifetime. Kennedy that just died, they were going to try to give his office to his daughter, no election at all, they have done that several times.

Americans have always been suspicious of their own elections, but because their Americans they don't do anything about it because it would make them look bad and break the lie they have lived in for 2

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