Hamid Karzai has been officially declared the winner of the Afghan presidential election. The country’s election commission said there would be no second round following the withdrawal of rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah.
The news coincided with a visit to the country by the UN Secretary General. Speaking before the announcement, Ban Ki-moon said the UN would support the decision. “The United Nations and the international community will stand by in working together with the next president, next government and the people of Afghanistan.” The UN Secretary General also met Abdullah Abdullah. The ex-candidate, who had demanded the removal of key election officials, described the decision to withdraw as painful but said the race would not have been fair. The former foreign minister won 28 percent of the vote in the first round in August. Karzai won almost 50 percent, but almost a third of his votes were invalidated because of widespread fraud. There was much international pressure for a second round to restore some legitimacy to the process. But security is one reason why it has been cancelled: the Taliban had threatened to disrupt next Saturday’s poll with further attacks. The latest moves have been welcomed by Britain and the US but some observers are questioning whether Hamid Karzai’s government can really be effective.