Election Monitor Claims 1M Tainted Karzai Votes
Clinton says Karzai will decided Tuesday whether to accept a runoff.
KABUL, Oct. 19, 2009— -- More than 1 million votes -- most of them for Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- were thrown out by election monitors in the disputed presidential election today, a decision that the Afghan president has indicated he might ignore.
The ruling by the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission would reduce the president's total from the 54 percent he has claimed to 48.3 percent. Anything under 50 percent is supposed to trigger a runoff between Karzai and his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah.
Over the weekend, Afghan election officials indicated they would not accept the possibility of a second vote, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that she has spoken to Karzai several times in recent days and that Karzai will announce his decision on Tuesday.
Clinton didn't indicate what Karzai's decision would be, but said she is "encouraged at the direction that the situation is moving."
She added, "I am very hopeful that we will see a resolution in line with the constitutional order in the next several days."
Clinton said she has received assurances from U.S. and Afghan officials that it would be possible to hold a runoff election before Afghanistan's crippling winter takes hold in the coming weeks.
Democracy International reported that the ECC has determined that 1.3 million votes were fraudulent, and about 1 million of those tainted votes were for Karzai. Another 200,000 votes for Abdullah were also thrown out, with the remainder for a handful of other candidates.
Those figures were confirmed to ABC News by election officials.
The impasse created by Karzai's rejection of the results has created paralysis within the Afghan government, where officials say they cannot make major decisions with the presidency in limbo, and is adding pressure on the Obama administration, which has said it cannot decide its strategy until the election is over.
"It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there's an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country," White House chief of staff Rham Emanuel said Sunday on CNN.
The White House reacted cautiously the ECC report today.
"It's going to be incredibly important for the world to see that Afghan leaders are willing to make this process legitimate, and that's the process that we're encouraging," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "And I think it's now up to the Afghans to make this legitimate."
French Foreign Minister Bernad Koucher and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were in Kabul over the weekend urging the Afghans to resolve the standoff quickly. But many Afghans increasingly blame the political uncertainty on the United States, which is seen by some as meddling in the country's electoral process.
The U.N. commission's findings are legally binding under Afghan law, but it's unclear what will happen if the Afghan-led Independent Election Commission or Karzai persists in resisting them.
"The election was good and fair and worthy of praise, not of scorn, which the election received from the international media," Karzai told ABC News' Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" on Oct. 13. "That makes me very unhappy. That, rather, makes me angry."
American officials say preparations for a runoff are underway, despite challenges that could make it difficult to hold a second nationwide vote.
Impending winter weather could make travel to polling stations difficult for Afghans in some parts of the country.