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Afghanistan - presidential election

Abdullah pulls out of second round, calls for calm

Article published on the 2009-11-01 Latest update 2009-11-02 08:57 TU

Abdullah Abdullah at a news conference in Kabul, 23 August 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Abdullah Abdullah at a news conference in Kabul, 23 August 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

Opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah announced that he would not participate in Afghanistan's run-off election on Sunday. He called on his supporters to stay calm and to not descend into the streets in protest.

After President Hamid Karzai snubbed a series of demands promoted as a bid to avoid a repeat of massive first-round fraud, Abdullah said he saw no point in standing in the second round, while stopping short of calling for a boycott.

"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 supporters.

"In protest against the misconduct of the government and the Independent Election Commission (IEC), I will not participate in the election," he added in an address in Kabul.

But Karzai's camp insisted the contest should still go ahead, with analysts saying a one-horse race could still take place on 7 November even if turnout is likely to be well below the 38 per cent recorded last time.

Abdullah “believes that contesting an election which would not have been a fair process, and which no doubt have involved a lot of repeat fraud like the first round, would have in fact weakened the institutions,” says correspondent Jerome Starkey in Kabul.

But his campaign aides had a slightly different message.

“They said they were fully aware that by withdrawing, they would deny President Karzai the credibility he so desperately craves,” Starkey told RFI.

Interview: correspondent Jerome Starkey in Kabul

01/11/2009 by Philip Turle

Karzai running unopposed doesn't bode well for his international reputation, already tarnished after the ballot-stuffing scandal that erupted after the first round of the election on 20 August.

In a second press conference, Abdullah denied he had cut any deals.

"This is my decision. This decision has not been made in exchange for anything from anybody," he said.

Following the widespread fraud in the first round, Abdullah demanded that Karzai sack the head of the IEC, Azizullah Ludin, and suspend four ministers who campaigned for the incumbent.

Abdullah's camp set a deadline of Saturday for Karzai to bow to his demands, saying he would not take part in a contest that will not be free and fair.

“This election has proven just how difficult it is to introduce democracy to a fragile and war-torn country,” Starkey says.

The international community is likely to seek a positive message. “To focus on the fact that the processes worked. That the field watchdogs did rule 1 million votes invalid, and because those mechanisms were implemented a second round was called for," Starkey told RFI.

"Now whether or not that happens, they will argue, is up to the candidates and not necessarily a failure of the process.”