Abdullah pulls out of Afghan vote

President Hamid Karzai’s rival in the second round of the Afghan presidential election has announced in Kabul that he is withdrawing from the poll.

Abdullah Abdullah had set out conditions he wanted to be met for the contest to be considered fair.

But Mr Karzai rejected his demand that election officials who presided over the first round should be dismissed.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a pull-out would not invalidate the legitimacy of the vote.

“We see that happen in our own country where, for whatever combination of reasons, one of the candidates decides not to go forward,” Mrs Clinton told reporters in the United Arab Emirates.

But the BBC’s Andrew North, in Kabul, says Dr Abdullah’s withdrawal means this is uncharted territory, and it is unclear what will happen next.

There has been much speculation that there could be some kind of deal which would see Dr Abdullah pull out – and possibly the emergence of a national unity government, our correspondent says.

There are many in Hamid Karzai’s camp who have been saying in recent days that if Dr Abdullah did pull out they would still want President Karzai to go all the way through to a scheduled vote next Saturday.

But, our correspondent adds, we know from many in the international community that there is great reluctance to see that happen.

Below threshold
Hundreds of thousands of votes were discounted from August’s first round of voting, which was marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

An investigation by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) led to Mr Karzai’s share of the vote dropping to 49.67% – below the crucial 50% plus one vote threshold needed to avoid a second round.

Mr Abdullah was adjudged in the end to have won about 31% of valid votes cast.

The Tajik-Pashtun former eye surgeon served as foreign minister in the short-lived government headed by the Northern Alliance, and continued as “foreign minister in exile” throughout the years of Taliban rule, which ended in 2001.

He continued in the role in the government that was formed by President Karzai after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, leaving it five years later.



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