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Afghan election finalized -- almost

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At long last, the Electoral Complaints Commission, headed by a Canadian professor, has passed on its findings of fraud to Afghanistan's Independent Electoral Commission. In what is evidently a poorly kept secret, those results show that Karzai won just 48% of the August 20 vote, rather than the 55% which the preliminary count found. While this, in theory, necessitates a run-off vote, it is widely reported that Karzai will be cutting a deal with challenger Abdullah to avoid a run-off.

The Christian Science Monitor has more on the legality of such deal-making:

Afghan election law says that if nobody gets 50 percent plus one vote in the first round, a runoff must be held to determine a winner. If one of those two parties concedes, it's unclear if the election can be called without the runoff.

"There is an absence of law, a silence, and for this you need an interpretation," says Ahmad Nader Nadery, commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

It would fall to the Supreme Court – appointed with no oversight by Karzai – to provide that interpretation.

"The Supreme Court is not strong enough to be able to get that much trust on [such a] decision that it was impartial," he says...

If no deal is reached, a runoff vote could be derailed by extremely low turnout, Taliban disruption, or failure to organize it before the snow starts falling. (link)

Reuters today reveals Karzai's apparent willingness to take part in a run-off:

Karzai indicated his willingness to accept a run-off in meetings this week with visiting Western officials, including U.S. Senator John Kerry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. (link)

Yet such a pledge may simply be a signal for Abdullah, as former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad indicates that Obama wants to see a deal made:

Zalmay Khalilzad, returned from Kabul on Monday and said Karzai was willing to "power-share" and that differences with Abdullah appeared to be in the timing of such an agreement.

"The international community and the Obama administration appear to favor the unity government rather than an election," said Khalilzad. (link)

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