United Nations — Talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah have broken down, and Abdullah is likely to pull out of next week’s presidential runoff, a person with knowledge of the talks said Friday.
An announcement could come as early as today but more likely Sunday, the person said.
Abdullah, who was once Karzai’s foreign minister, put forward several conditions earlier this week for the Nov. 7 election to be credible, but intensive talks between the two candidates and their supporters over the past few days broke down Friday, the person, a Westerner, said on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.
Abdullah gave Karzai until today to agree to the conditions, the person said.
The political stalemate in Kabul comes as President Barack Obama has been meeting with his advisers to try to determine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, including troop levels. A weakened Afghan government will make it harder for Obama to get public support for his efforts.
The runoff election in Afghanistan became necessary after widespread fraud in the first-round of voting in August resulted in thousands of Karzai’s ballots being invalidated, pushing him below the required 50 percent margin to win. Concerns have been raised about a possible repetition of the ballot-box stuffing and distorted tallies in the second round.
Abdullah complained Monday that there were no assurances that the November vote would be fairer than the first balloting. The story was first reported by CNN.
One of Abdullah’s demands was to fire the head of the Karzai-appointed Independent Election Commission, Azizullah Lodin, within five days.
He said Monday that Lodin has “no credibility.” But Lodin has denied allegations of bias in favor of Karzai, and the election commission’s spokesman has already said Lodin cannot be replaced by either side.
Abdullah also wanted changes in several ministries and a power-sharing deal, the person close to the talks told The Associated Press.
Abdullah was pressing for a power-sharing agreement with Karzai instead of a vote, but Karzai refused, insisting instead on a vote and then a power-sharing agreement, the person said.
A senior U.S official, speaking on condition of anonymity, wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of Abdullah pulling out of the election.
“The U.S. remains committed to working with the Afghans to conclude their Presidential election process,” the official said. If the candidates agreed to a solution that is acceptable to them, in the interests of Afghanistan and is constitutionally sound, then “that is a matter for them.”