Is Karzai trying to Steal the Afghanistan Election, taking a Leaf from Ahmadinejad’s Book?

The BBC is reporting that Obama’s special envoy to AfPak, Richard Holbrooke, has had a shouting match with President Hamid Karzai over the desirability of a second round in the presidential election. At the moment, with 17% of ballots counted, Karzai is ahead of his nearest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, by 45% to 35%. That tally would not allow the incumbent to avoid a run-off (he needs 50% for that outcome).

So I ask myself, why is Holbrooke in Karzai’s office insisting that there be a run-off? Wouldn’t whether there is a second round depend on the outcome of the election? Why try to persuade Karzai?

The only way this scenario makes sense to me is if US/NATO intelligence is reporting from the field that Karzai is rigging the election returns so as to ensure he gets to 50%.

The presidential election, which had been intended by Obama and his NATO allies as a political victory over the Taliban, is swiftly turning into a major debacle.

Voter turnout fell from some 70 percent in the last presidential election, likely to only 30-something percent this time (not the 50% initially estimated, presumably by someone with an interest in hyping the event for propaganda purposes). In some southern provinces such as Helmand, turnout was only 10 percent, a datum that demonstrates that the people of Helmand simply had no voice in this election and it does not meet international standards of legitimacy. (Voters must be held harmless from threats and violence).

Another presidential candidate, Sarwar Ahmadzai, has called for a do-over of the election in 12 provinces where there were “irregularities”:

‘ Sarwar Ahmadzai told a press conference in Kabul most of the rigging took place in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan, Logar, Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces. He accused supporters of Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah of involvement in irregularities. He said the rigging ranged from ballot box stuffing to voting by minors.’

Abdullah Abdullah has also alleged ballot fraud.

If Karzai is so widely suspected of stealing this election, why is there not the same global reaction against him as there was against Ahmadinejad in Iran? Is there an unwritten rule that allies of the West get cut some slack?

Moreover, it is clear that one of Karzai’s less savory campaign techniques was to enlist the old sanguinary warlords on his side. The US has lodged a complaint with Karzai about his choice of Northern Alliance general Mohammad Fahim as his vice president. The Afghan Pajhwok News Service remarked dryly, “Asked why the Obama administration did not want Fahim to be in the government, the official replied it could be for a number of reasons narcotics, drug trade and human rights violations.”

Many officials from NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan are fed up with Karzai, who, they say, says all the right things and makes promises but never delivers on them.

Pepe Escobar is scathing on the failure of the elections as a justification for NATO’s Afghan mission.

Aljazeera English has video on the Karzai government’s attempt to address the poor security situation in Qandahar (where on Tuesday the Taliban deployed an enormous truck bomb to kill dozens.

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