29 October 2004, Volume 3, Number 39
KARZAI SEEN WINNING OUTRIGHT FIRST-ROUND VICTORYBy Ron Synovitz and Amin Tarzi
With the vast majority of ballots counted in Afghanistan's historic presidential election, Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai has emerged as the likely winner with about 55 percent of the vote (for updated results of the vote, see: http://www.afg-electionresults.org/).
The results will not be official until the last ballots are counted from the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan. But UN officials have said it already is apparent that Karzai has won a clear mandate to govern the country for the next five years. Because he appears to have won the support of more than half of those who voted, there is likely to be no need for a second-round runoff ballot in November between the two front-runners if no challenges to the balloting are deemed serious enough to overturn the ballot count.
Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai's election campaign, welcomed the announcement made on 24 October of the nearly complete results as a victory for the Afghan people.
"From the first day, when people went to the ballot boxes, we were certain about the victory of the people in this election," Elmi said. "We were expecting the Afghan nation to succeed in the first round of this election. When the results appeared, we were certain about Karzai's victory. His victory is a victory for the people. It is the people who gave him their votes."
Elmi said the results are close to the estimates that Karzai's campaign staff had made before the ballot took place.
"Even before the beginning of the official campaign period [in September], we hoped to get between 57 percent and 62 percent of the first-round vote. And now, when we hear the results are nearly complete, we are certain about our victory. But we are still waiting for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body [JEMB] to announce this victory officially," Elmi said.
In an interview with "The Daily Telegraph" on 25 October, Karzai personally claimed victory his country's first popular election. "I am feeling good," Karzai told the London daily. "What is good [is] that I won without a real campaign or using any money or the use of government machinery. It was a clear pure win and a vote for the people."
UN officials on the JEMB have said that they expect to make their final official announcement around 30 October, after all of the votes are counted and investigations into alleged electoral fraud are completed (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004). Under the Afghan Constitution approved in January, the president would assume his duties 30 days after that proclamation.
But there is one legal loophole remaining that could prevent Karzai's inauguration from taking place in late November or early December. Under the Afghan Electoral Law that was adopted in May, new elections must be held if one of the 16 candidates dies before the final official results are announced.
Meanwhile, 47-year-old former Education Minister Mohammad Yunos Qanuni suggested through a spokesman on 24 October that he accepted the victory of Karzai -- but he also wants an ongoing investigation by election officials to clarify details of alleged ballot-box fraud (see news section below).
According to results announced on 24 October, Qanuni won support from about 16 percent of Afghan voters, leaving him trailing Karzai by nearly 40 percentage points. A spokesman for Qanuni confirmed after the announcement that Qanuni will respect the will of the Afghan voters and will not challenge the outcome of the election.
According to the tally, ethnic Hazara candidate Mohammad Mohaqeq was in third place, with nearly 12 percent of the vote. In fourth place was the ethnic Uzbek militia commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum, with about 10 percent of the vote. The remaining 6 percent of the vote was divided among the other 12 candidates.
Ron Synovitz is an RFE/RL correspondent.
ELECTION SPECIALVisit RFE/RL and Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated webpage "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" for the latest news, analysis, and background on the country's first-ever direct national elections. Find detailed profiles of the presidential candidates, identify emerging political parties, and view key documents in the electoral process. Plus, a host of other tools to help you follow October's presidential vote and next year's parliamentary campaigns.
INABILITY TO DISRUPT ELECTIONS LEADS TO DISCORD AMONG TALIBAN LEADERS.Major Scott Nelson, spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on 20 October that the failure by the neo-Taliban to disrupt the 9 October presidential election has led to disagreements among the organization's leaders, Afghanistan's official Bakhtar News Agency reported.
"Some intelligence reports from Pakistan and Afghanistan show that serious disagreements have emerged between Mullah [Mohammad] Omar, the leader of the Taliban, and other leaders of the group," Nelson said. He added that the discord may become a factor that could lead to Mullah Omar's arrest. Nelson referred to the "cooperation of the public" as the key to arresting the former head of the Taliban regime. Nelson added that "the election showed that the Taliban lacks the capability to conduct coordinated, sustained, and effective operations," dpa reported on 20 October. Nelson said he believes that Mullah Omar is still in charge of the Taliban's day-to-day operations, adding that he is uncertain as to the Taliban leader's whereabouts, AP reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
SUICIDE BLAST IN KABUL CLAIMS TWO LIVES AS NEO-TALIBAN TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.A man blew himself up on 23 October in a busy Kabul street, killing two and injuring six, international news agencies reported. The man, "disguised as a beggar," approached a vehicle belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and blew himself up, Afghanistan Television reported on 23 October. In addition to the bomber, the blast killed a young Afghan girl and a U.S. woman. It also wounded three Icelandic soldiers belonging to ISAF and three Afghan civilians, AFP reported on 23 October. Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Poulain of ISAF said that there was "no evidence of a direct attack against ISAF." (Amin Tarzi)
Abdul Latif Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, on 23 October claimed that the militia was behind the attack in Kabul, AFP reported. "We claim responsibility for all attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan, as well as today's [23 October] attack in Kabul," Hakimi said in a telephone interview. According to Hakimi, the neo-Taliban will remain an enemy of the Afghan government and the group "doesn't care if it is elected or selected." (Amin Tarzi)
NEO-TALIBAN ARRESTS MADE IN SOUTHERN AND SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.General Abdul Zaher Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said that the Afghan National Army has arrested two neo-Taliban commanders in the Daichopan District of Oruzgan Province, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 20 October. The two men were identified by Azimi as Mullah Abdul Qahar Akhund and Mawlawi Shahaboddin. Referring to the two men as "senior Taliban leaders," dpa on 20 October identified them as Mullah Abdul Qahar and Abdul Ghaffar.
Meanwhile U.S.-led coalition forces in southeastern Afghanistan, with help of local citizens, on 19 October arrested a man suspected of being involved in an attack the previous day on a vehicle operated and used by the Afghan-UN Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Bakhtar News Agency reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004). U.S. forces spokesman Major Scott Nelson said that "the arrested man is a Taliban commander." Five people riding in a JEMB jeep were killed in the 18 October roadside blast in Paktika Province. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. AIRMAN KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN.A U.S. airman was killed and two others were wounded, one critically, on 20 October when their HH-60 helicopter crashed in Herat Province's Shindand District, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. The helicopter was reportedly attempting to land in order to pick up a wounded JEMB employee. Lieutenant Colonel Pam Keeton, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on 21 October that the helicopter crashed due to technical problems, not hostile fire, AP reported. The election worker was reportedly accidentally shot by a guard. Mufti Latifullah Hakimi, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said on 21 October that the militia fired on a U.S. helicopter in Ghor Province's Taywara District, "causing it to crash in Herat," Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Ghor lies east of Herat Province. (Amin Tarzi)
THREE U.S. SOLDIERS AND ONE AFGHAN INJURED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.Three U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded on 20 October in Paktika Province's Nika District when their vehicle hit a land mine, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Paktika Governor Golab Mangal said that Afghan security forces have arrested a suspect in the case and have confiscated several land mines and bomb-making instructions in Arabic, AP reported on 21 October. Mangal did not identify the suspect but claimed that he is a deputy of a senior neo-Taliban commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani. The purported neo-Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, has claimed that the militia is responsible for destroying two U.S. vehicles in Nika, AIP reported on 21 October. (Amin Tarzi)
OSCE CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION ON UPCOMING AFGHAN ELECTIONS, AS AFGHAN CHIEF JUDGE CHIDES THE ORGANIZATION.The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a 21 October press release that the Afghan authorities and JEMB must take immediate action in order to meet the deadline for the country's parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2005. "There is no question that the parliamentary, provincial, and district elections scheduled for next spring will be much more difficult to administer than the presidential elections were," said Robert Barry, head of OSCE's Election Support Team for Afghanistan. Prior to Afghanistan's 9 October presidential election, Barry indicated that the OSCE would not supervise the poll and would not issue a statement about the fairness of the process, opting instead to provide a set of recommendations to the Afghan authorities for use in future elections (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 October 2004). The OSCE's recommendations have been published in a 17-page report dated 18 October that can be found on the organization's website (http://www.osce.org).
The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, on 25 October rejected an allegation by the OSCE that the high court had interfered in Afghanistan's presidential election, Radio Afghanistan reported.
Shinwari said that at a meeting held in September, the High Council of the Supreme Court instructed all courts to refrain from interfering in the election process.
In its recommendation the OSCE claimed that the "Supreme Court breached...[the] division of powers in seeking to intervene without any constitutional or statutory authority in the course of the presidential elections." (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN ELECTION PANEL SUBMITS ITS RECOMMENDATIONS.Sultan Ahmad Bahin, spokesman for the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), said on 24 October that the UN panel of experts established to investigate the complaints of irregularities in the electoral process has submitted its recommendations to the JEMB, Afghanistan Television reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004 and feature above). According to Bahin, the recommendations of the panel are that except for 12 ballot boxes, all other confiscated boxes should be made available for counting. According to JEMB, with 97.2 percent of votes counted, Karzai was in first place with 55.5 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, had the second-largest number of votes with 16.2 percent of the total (see more at: http://www.afg-electionresults.org/). (Amin Tarzi)
QANUNI CONDITIONALLY CONCEDES...Sayyed Hamid Nuri, a spokesman for Qanuni, said on 24 October that his side will "accept [the result of the election] in the interest of the nation" and to avoid "another crisis," Reuters reported (see feature above and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 October 2004). However, Qanuni's second vice-presidential running mate, Sayyed Hosayn Alemi-Balkhi, said on 23 October that Qanuni is not backing down from the complaints he has lodged about improprieties in the election process, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. "Fraud in the election is not something to be disregarded because this is about the right of the people," Alemi-Balkhi said. "I think the other candidates have all accepted the results" of the election, Chairman Karzai told "The Daily Telegraph" on 25 October. While Qanuni is waiting for the results of the UN panel, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who stands fourth with 10.3 percent of the vote, has accepted Karzai's victory. (Amin Tarzi)
...BUT VOICES OF DISSENT REMAIN.Yassa, a representative of presidential candidate Mohammad Mohaqeq, said on 24 October that Karzai's victory is the result of fraud, "The New York Times" reported. "Definitely I should say there was a lot of cheating, and we want to congratulate Mr. Karzai on the election that he is winning as a result of large-scale fraud and cheating," Yassa told the New York-daily in a telephone interview. Presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram labeled the election "completely shameful," adding that "if Karzai or anybody else becomes the president of the country as a result of this election, he will be a false president." Mohaqeq stands third with 11.8 percent of the vote, while Pedram is fifth with 1.2 percent. (Amin Tarzi)
DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES DDR COMPLETION BY JUNE.In a message released on 24 October, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim pledged that the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program in Afghanistan will be completed by June 2005, Radio Afghanistan reported. Fahim's message came on the first anniversary of the DDR program, which began in an experimental phase on 24 October 2003 in northern Afghanistan's Konduz Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 October 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
COALITION FORCES ACCUSED OF BURNING SHOPS TRADING OPIUM IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN.Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces are alleged to have set fire to 150 shops in the Shadal area of Achin District in Nangarhar Province, Radio Afghanistan reported on 24 October. The reports prompted a denial by a U.S. military spokesman of any involvement.
According to the report, opium was being sold in the market where the shops in question were located. A local resident told Radio Afghanistan that many of the shops were selling food. An unidentified security commander of Nangarhar confirmed the report but declined to give details.
Lutfullah Mashal, an Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman, confirmed the seizure of narcotics in Achin but did not comment on any fires, which Radio Afghanistan described as an "arson attack."
Since 2001, Afghanistan's production of opium has surged dramatically. However, both NATO and the coalition forces have maintained that dealing with the drug problem is not a priority for them (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 18 June 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
TURKEY SET TO ASSUME COMMAND OF ISAF IN 2005.Based on a decision by the Military Committee of NATO, Turkey will assume command of IISAF in Afghanistan starting in February 2005, Anatolia news agency reported on 20 October. The duration of the Turkish command would be between six to eight months and it would be followed by Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain, respectively. Turkey will also take command of the Kabul international airport in February 2005, after which time Romania and then the Czech Republic are to assume responsibility for it. An unidentified NATO official said that securing command of ISAF through 2007 guarantees the operation "stability and planning," AFP reported on 20 October. Eurocorps, commanded by a French general, currently commands ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Both Turkey and the United Kingdom have previously led ISAF. (Amin Tarzi)
TWO FRENCH SOLDIERS KILLED IN ACCIDENT IN AFGHANISTAN.Two French soldiers serving with ISAF were killed on 21 October in a road accident, AFP reported on 22 October. A third soldier was injured in the incident. (Amin Tarzi)
LOCAL MILITIA COMMANDER AMONG NINE KILLED IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN.Afghan police reported on 20 October that a commander identified as Aslam along with four of his men were killed in Jorm District of Badakhshan Province, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. Unidentified gunmen then killed four other people in Aslam's home. AIP reported on 21 October that Aslam's supporters attacked the area in response to the commander's killing. Badakhshan is a province in which the neo-Taliban have no presence, but where drug barons are active. Most of Afghanistan's surging opium trade to Europe passes through Badakhshan. It is not clear if the incident in Jorm was related to drugs or not. (Amin Tarzi)
IRAN-HERAT CONTRACTS AWAIT ELECTION RESULTS.Herat Province Governor Sayyed Mohammad Khairkhwa met on 20 October with the Iranian consul to the province, Ali Najafimanesh, and discussed bilateral relations, Herat television reported. Among the topics of discussion were direct flights between Mashhad and Herat, road construction, a Herati cultural exhibition in Iran, and border security. Khairkhwa told his Iranian guest that government ministries will sign contracts on new projects when the results of the 9 October presidential election are finalized. In Kabul on 19 October, government spokesman Jawed Ludin noted the positive attitude of President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami toward Afghanistan and Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, Hindukush News Agency reported. Ludin went on to say, however, that some Iranian media elements have made negative comments about the presidential election (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 October 2004). (Bill Samii)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY25 October 1965 -- The Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the Afghan parliament) approves Prime Minister Mohammad Yusof's cabinet.
25 October 1990 -- The U.S. Congress reduces its aid to the Afghan resistance (mujahedin).
26 October 2001 -- Commander Abdul Haq is executed by the Taliban regime when trying to raise a force of Pashtuns against that regime.
Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).