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Karzai Declared Afghan Election Winner

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai received congratulations today from President Obama, and an admonition that it is time to write a new chapter. That's after Karzai was declared the winner of the election today. The planned runoff was canceled following the decision yesterday by Karzai's challenger to drop out. As Mr. Obama noted, the election process was messy. We'll hear more reaction from the U.S. in a moment.

NORRIS: First, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins us on the line from Kabul. Soraya, what sort of reaction are you hearing today about the declaration of Karzai as the official winner now?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Well, there hasn't been much Afghan reaction yet because this came pretty late in the day. Although, it does seem that the challenger who dropped out, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is planning to challenge this decision tomorrow. He is planning to hold a press conference from what we're told and his spokesman has already made some suggestion that this is just not acceptable to him. But if you look at what Western reaction is, they have quickly - basically, the international community has quickly rallied around President Karzai and they're trying to move this ahead. There was no discussion of fraud, no discussion of things to come.

The only person who said anything about the fact that this government now -that President Karzai's new administration will have to really come to terms with some of the deficiencies here was Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary-general, who said that lessons must be learned and that the people of this country here in Afghanistan deserve support and deserve services and deserve security and that the Karzai administration will have to provide that.

NORRIS: You know, based on what you're saying it, sounds like the role of Abdullah Abdullah is going to be pretty unclear. I mean, he's dropped out but he's planning to challenge Karzai's role now?

NELSON: Well, this is all part of a negotiation tactic. I mean, Dr. Abdullah all week long had been in intensive talks, closed-door talks with President Karzai. These talks were being nurtured, shall we say, by Western diplomats who were hoping that these two would come to some kind of power-sharing agreement and avoid a runoff to begin with because of all the security concerns being raised. And so, the talks broke down, which is sort of the unspoken reason for why Dr. Abdullah dropped out. It's just unlikely that Dr. Abdullah will get the kind of power that he was hoping to get, which would include appointing, or having a say in appointing ministers and setting Afghan policy.

Now that the West seems to be accepting or trying to push President Karzai ahead as a legitimate victor, it's unlikely that Dr. Abdullah is just going to sit by and accept that.

NORRIS: With Hamid Karzai now declared the official winner of the presidential election, to what degree does that now solve the political uncertainty in Afghanistan?

NELSON: Well, for the West it gives them - in particular, President Obama - a green light to move ahead in redefining and setting an Afghanistan strategy that works in terms of international involvement here. But the question remains whether Afghans will accept this government as a legitimate one. I think much can be forgiven, including the fraud, in a very lengthy and disappointing election process if in fact the new Karzai administration delivers services and delivers security, which is what people here are really wanting.

NORRIS: Soraya, thank you very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Michele.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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