Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s lead in the hotly disputed Afghan election has plummeted dramatically, according to Western officials, and Karzai is now believed to have only 47%, well short of what is needed to avert a second round of voting.
The Western governments involved in the ongoing military conflict in Afghanistan remain concerned about what is bound to be a complicated runoff, but seem remarkably calm about the fact that this was necessitated by their chosen candidate, the incumbent Karzai, receiving hundreds of thousands if not millions of fraudulent votes.
So now officials are hoping to convince Karzai to come to some sort of agreement with second place candidate Abdullah Abdullah on a coalition government to avoid the vote. Abdullah has repeatedly ruled out joining Karzai in light of the massive fraud and voter intimidation done on his behalf.
But this is really putting the cart before the horse. Serious suspicion of UN envoy Kai Eide’s support for Karzai aside, Karzai has been lining up excuses to reject the results of the fraud investigation for weeks and could still use his Independent Election Commission, every member of which was hand-picked by Karzai, to circumvent the results.
The US is already looking for downplay expectations for the second round, if it occurs at all, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring Karzai the likely winner. Everything seems to point to Karzai remaining in power regardless on the situation for the forseeable future, but the damage to his government’s credibility has probably already been done.