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Amid Election Uncertainty, Karzai Prepares For Inauguration Ceremony

  • Frud Bezhan

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai (center) with rival presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah (right) and Ashraf Ghani (left) in Kabul on August 19.

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai (center) with rival presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah (right) and Ashraf Ghani (left) in Kabul on August 19.

The long-running deadlock over the disputed presidential election in Afghanistan is still far from over.

That, however, has not stopped outgoing President Hamid Karzai from fixing September 2 as the date for the delayed inauguration of his successor. What's more, Karzai has formed a special government commission that has begun making last-minute preparations for the historic event.

But there's an elephant in the room -- the mammoth task of auditing all eight million votes cast in the June 14 election has still not been completed and rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have still not hashed out the details of a crucial power-sharing agreement brokered earlier this month.

Neither candidate appears willing to back down, and regular disputes have broken out. The audit was temporarily suspended on August 27 after first Abdullah and then Ghani pulled out of the process, casting the election deeper into disarray and clouding the chances for a swift resolution.

Preliminary results put Ghani, a former finance minister, in the lead. But Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has rejected the results and claimed "systematic fraud."

ALSO READ: Abdullah Pulls Out Of Election Audit

It seems optimistic to expect that in less than one week the audit and a complaints adjudication process will have been completed and that both candidates will have accepted the final results and hashed out a political settlement.

Nevertheless, the commission Karzai has charged with organizing the inauguration is going full steam ahead with preparations for what it promises will be a "glorious" event.


A meeting of the commission and its various sub-committees on August 25 revealed the preparations being made. The meeting was chaired by Sadeq Modaber, the director of the Office of Administrative Affairs and Council of Ministers Secretariat. Details of the gathering were published on the office's website.

Mohammad Zahir Ghous, a deputy to Karzai's chief of staff, was given instructions to design the invitation cards and decorate the Salam Khana palace in Kabul, where the ceremony is to take place.

Ghulam Nabi Farahi, the deputy minister of information and culture, was instructed to form a media center and hire translators for the dozens of foreign dignitaries who will attend the inauguration.

Meanwhile, Nisar Ahmad Habibi, head of the municipal sanitation department in Kabul, was instructed to refurbish the main road from Kabul International Airport to the presidential palace as well as to mark the road with traffic lanes and signs. He was also told to erect billboards and national flags and plant flowers along the same thoroughfare.

Lastly, Mohammad Yaqub Rasuli, the head of Kabul International Airport, was charged with repainting the main terminal and renovating the VIP and VVIP lounges.

In a statement on August 23, the presidential palace said that it will be "totally ready" for the inauguration ceremony.

The new president was originally due to be inaugurated on August 2, and there have already been two delays.

Abdullah's and Ghani's campaign teams met with Karzai on August 26 to discuss the inauguration date. Abdullah's campaign team has called the date "unrealistic" while Ghani's team has called for no further delays.

Fayeq Wahidi, deputy spokesman for the president, said the inauguration date was "unchangeable."

The United States has been pushing for the next president to be inaugurated before a NATO summit in Wales on September 4-5, which will determine how much financial support Kabul will receive after NATO's current combat mission ends this year.

Karzai has been equally keen to hand over power.

A spokesman for Karzai, Aimal Faizi, said the president was not willing to go himself and that it was better to send the new president.

Karzai has clashed with NATO over controversial night raids and civilian casualties in airstrikes. The president has also refused to sign a bilateral security agreement allowing international forces to stay in Afghanistan past December.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to