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Former Afghan Presidential Contender Questions Karzai's Legitimacy

"The government that comes out of this illegal decision will not be able to ensure the rule of law in the country," Abdullah says.
(RFE/RL) -- Abdullah Abdullah, who was Hamid Karzai's top challenger in Afghanistan's recent presidential election before pulling out of a second-round runoff, is now questioning Karzai's legitimacy as president.

Abdullah's comments, made during his first media appearance since Karzai was declared the winner on November 2, come amid reports that he pulled out of the runoff after power-sharing talks with Karzai broke down.

"A government which is derived from such an illegal decision is not going to be able to deliver," Abdullah said. "So on that basis, I reaffirm my commitment to the people of Afghanistan on the principals of the agenda which I started."

Abdullah said Karzai's next administration will not have broad legitimacy and won't be able to implement promised reforms, including those aimed at reining in corruption. He labeled the Afghan Independent Election Commission's (IEC) decision to cancel the November 7 runoff and name Karzai the winner "illegal."

"This decision does not have a legal basis and the government that comes out of this illegal decision will not be able to ensure the rule of law in the country and will not be able to fight administrative corruption," he said.

The IEC's decision came after Abdullah pulled out of the runoff on the grounds that transparent elections could not be held. Analysts widely predicted that Abdullah would have lost the second round vote, and some suggest that his withdrawal was intended both to deny Karzai a clean victory and also to position himself for a significant role in the future government.

"The Washington Post" reported on November 4 that Abdullah's team was negotiating a power-sharing deal with Karzai just hours before he announced his withdrawal from the runoff. The Washington daily reported that former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, a key Abdullah backer, was keen on cutting a deal but that Karzai refused to accept the Abdullah camp's demands for cabinet posts.

During today's press conference, which came just a day after Karzai committed himself to the formation of an inclusive government, Abdullah ruled out any role in the new cabinet.

"I have no interest in the future cabinet of Karzai's government, and I will pursue my agenda, which is change," he said.

He suggested he will now assume the role of a top opposition leader.

"This popular movement to bring the rule of law, to monitor the actions of the government, to bring them to accountability, to push for transparency, to observe what is going on, and to serve the interest of the country in a broad sense, and strengthen the basis of national unity in this country -- this movement will continue," he said.

Abdullah urged his supporters to remain peaceful.

"My expectation from the people is to use constraint and behave on the basis of the rule of law and not resort to any illegal action for the fulfillment of their goals," Abdullah told journalists at his Kabul home.

The latest reports from Kabul suggest that technocrats and some existing ministers will be included in Karzai's future cabinet, which is expected to be formed within three weeks.