Karzai approves Afghan presidential elections in August

March 7th, 2009 - 7:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, March 7 (DPA) Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday approved a decision by the Election Commission to hold presidential polls in August, retracting his earlier decree ordering the vote next month.
Karzai had thrown the country into political turmoil last week by ordering the Election Commission, which had set balloting for Aug 20, to bring the balloting forward to comply with the constitution.

The decision sparked an outcry among the opposition and the international community. The commission defended its initial decision, saying poor weather, security problems, and budgetary and operational challenges stood in the way of an earlier election.

“I have accepted the decision of the Election Commission,” Karzai told reporters in his fortified presidential palace.

The president said that he had even accepted the date, initially set by the commission, but “there was suddenly disagreement with it”.

“The lower house passed a resolution, calling it against the constitution, calling upon me as the protector of the constitution to implement the constitution and prevent the commission from holding election against the constitution.

“Now that everybody is seeking a national consensus, not constitution, for the election, I respect that and have accepted the decision of the Election Commission,” he said.

Karzai also said he was determined to run for re-election, countering recent speculation that because of his unpopularity both inside the country and among his international backers, he might not put himself forward for the next polling.

“I would like to complete in my mind the task I have towards further improvement of Afghanistan - but I will do that only if I can be a factor of stability for Afghanistan and if I can ensure stability in Afghanistan and legitimacy in this country,” he said.

Karzai’s term expires May 22, and according to the constitution, elections must be held 30 to 60 days before that date.

Karzai’s opponents have warned that they would not recognise him as the legitimate president if he remained in office after the expiration of his term.

On Wednesday, almost all political opposition leaders decided at a gathering that Karzai could not lead the country after May and unanimously proposed that a provisional administration should be formed to rule the country until next president is elected.

They said that Karzai as president could use all government resources to campaign for his re-election and lead the country towards an unfair election.

Although the constitution has given him the authority and legitimacy to run the country until the election is convened, the president said on Saturday that he would still seek “national consensus” to legitimize his rule for another four months.

Afghan and international monitors said they fear that Afghanistan’s fragile democracy would be paralysed unless a consensus is made among political power-brokers on who would rule the country after May 22.

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