KABUL: The Taliban called today for a boycott of the upcoming run-off in Afghanistan’s fraud-tainted presidential election as top US and UN envoys predicted fewer problems with the second round.
While Western military chiefs say they can ensure the November 7 poll is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, the warning from the Taliban threatens to further deflate turnout, which was less than 40 per cent first time round.
“The Islamic emirate (of Afghanistan) once again informs all the people that no one should participate in this American process and should boycott the process,” said a Taliban statement emailed to AFP.
The run-off pits former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against incumbent Hamid Karzai, who came to power in late 2001 after the Taliban were toppled by US-led forces.
“The mujahedeen are
fully prepared to defeat
this process,” it said, adding: “Anyone who
participates and gets
hurt will be responsible for their own losses.”
Nevertheless, tribal chiefs from across the country
met in Kabul on Saturday to discuss security and urge
all Afghans to participate
in the vote. “This time it’s believed that more people will participate in the election,” said Mohammad Nasim, an elder from southern Logar province.
Almost one million of Karzai’s share of the preliminary results — around one-third of all votes cast for him — were eliminated for fraud, cutting his lead to below the 50 per cent threshold needed for outright victory. The Independent Election Commission has begun sending voting materials, including ballots with just two names and indelible ink, to polling stations across the country.
Speculation persists that Karzai and Abdullah could reach a deal that will negate the need for the run-off — perhaps through a power-sharing deal or with Abdullah bowing out of the second presidential race.
But in an interview with CNN, Abdullah ruled out joining Karzai’s government should he lose the run-off.
“I think I left Karzai’s
government some three-and-a-half years ago, and since then I’ve not been tempted to be part of that government... part of the same deteriorating situation,” he said.
Abdullah, who travelled to most of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces during first-round campaigning, will mainly stay in Kabul this time, his spokesman Sayed Aqa Fazil Sancharaki said.
“I don’t think there’s a need for a massive re-campaigning as Abdullah’s messages and programmes are already out there and I’m sure people will take the right decision in choosing a president.” The run-off has been proclaimed as a chance to revive Afghanistan’s democratic ambitions and bring some credibility to the election process, supported and bankrolled by the UN to the tune of 380 million dollars.