Nov 3, 2009 1 Comment ›› Pat Dollard
Hamid Karzai vowed to crack down on corruption and reach out to his political rivals, a day after he was declared the winner of Afghanistanâ€™s fraud-ridden presidential elections.
Flanked by his two vice-presidents, Mr Karzai made a subdued acceptance speech this morning in which he attempted to reassure the international community that he would be the â€œcredible partnerâ€ they need to make progress against the Taleban.
He promised to eliminate the â€œdark stain of corruptionâ€ that has undermined confidence in his regime.
Questions still hang over his mandate after he was declared the victor yesterday without receiving the â€œ50 per cent plus one voteâ€ required by Afghanistanâ€™s constitution.
But in the clearest indication yet that he plans to bolster his legitimacy by forging a national unity government, Mr Karzai congratulated his opponent Dr Abdullah Abdullah and pledged an ethnically representative administration.
â€œOur government will be the mirror of Afghanistan so everyone can see themselves in the mirror,â€ he said. â€œNo one will see themselves distanced in this process. All of us will be included as part of Afghanistanâ€™s government.â€
America, Britain and the United Nations have put pressure on Mr Karzai to reach a power-sharing arrangement with Dr Abdullah. â€œWe think there should be a space for Dr Abdullah in a future Karzai government,â€ a British official said.
Mr Karzai has a record as a â€œbig tentâ€ politician, often bringing old enemies into his cabinet, but until now his ministries have failed to deliver even basic services to the people.
He praised Dr Abdullah for his campaign today, and regretted his decision to withdraw from the run-off, scheduled for November 7.
Dr Abdullah claimed that a second round would have been even more fraudulent than the first and blamed the “illegal actions” of the Government and the election authorities for his decision to pull out.
His announcement on Sunday came after power-sharing talks broke down. By refusing to participate he denied Mr Karzai the chance to win an outright victory which would have cemented his authority for a second term.
Mr Karzai failed to win an absolute majority in the first round after almost a million of his votes were thrown out amid â€œclear and convincing evidenceâ€ of fraud.
Mr Karzai made no reference to the fraud this morning. Instead he praised the Independent Election Commission (IEC), after it declared him the winner yesterday, without consulting the Supreme Court, as many constitutional lawyers had expected.
â€œThe IEC said their decision to declare Karzai the winner was based on the constitution and the electoral law, but 24 hours earlier they said exactly the opposite,â€ an election observer said. â€œThe constitution doesnâ€™t cover this and thereâ€™s no case law. It should have gone to the Supreme Court, but there was no appetite to draw this out any longer.â€
President Obama demanded a â€œnew chapterâ€ in Afghan politics when he congratulated Mr Karzai on his victory yesterday.
Mr Obama asked for â€œa sense on the part of President Karzai that, after some difficult years in which there has been some drift, that in fact heâ€™s going to move boldly and forcefully forward and take advantage of the international communityâ€™s interest in his country to initiate reforms internally. That has to be one of our highest priorities.â€