Thursday was scheduled to be date when Afghan officials announced the result of last month’s presidential election. Needless to say, that isn’t going to happen.
Weeks after the hotly contested election, incumbent President Hamid Karzai is leading by a wide margin, likely enough to avoid a run-off with chief rival Abdullah Abdullah. But with election monitors confirming wide-spread fraud in the vote, potentially amounting to half a million fraudulent votes for Karzai, Afghans are likely looking at months of political and legal disputes and growing credence for Taliban claims that the election was “fixed.”
It’s bad news for Karzai, who went from the front-runner in the polls to facing credible calls for a criminal investigation into his actions. But it’s even worse news for the international forces, who had hoped the election would be a turning point to give the eight-year long occupation some semblance of legitimacy and hope.
The only thing worse, American officials fear, is Karzai unilaterally declaring victory on the basis of preliminary counts and daring the opposition to do anything about it. With the Taliban taking increasing control over the country despite an escalating international presence, NATO can ill-afford the appearance of propping up an illegitimate government in the nation.
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