Amid reports that the ongoing election talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and runoff opponent Abdullah Abdullah have broken down, it is widely expected that Abdullah will announce a boycott of the election, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
Following massive fraud in the first round, Abdullah has issued a series of demands aimed at ensuring the election is at least somewhat cleaner this time around. Karzai, who only grudgingly allowed the second round of voting in the first place, has rejected essentially every demand.
“Karzai was belligerent as hell” during the meetings, according to one diplomat. Perhaps sensing Karzai is in no mood to negotiate, officials have been pressuring Abdullah to abandon his demands, but there is a growing sense that the same crooked election system that was in place in August remains largely intact.
An Abdullah boycott following a first round rife with fraud would seriously damage the legitimacy of the Karzai government going forward, and also leaves open the possibility that his supporters will take to the streets in protest.
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