AFGHANISTAN

Pressure for Karzai to Skip Runoff

Though the White House pressured Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff election after allegations of fraud last August, now that Abdullah Abdullah has backed out, they want the runoff to stop. Abdullah was convinced not to call for a boycott to the runoff in his emotional resignation speech Sunday, which will preserve some stability in the region. Now that he’s bowed out, Western diplomats, including from the U.N., are attempting to dissuade President Karzai from holding the election by himself to avoid wasting money and loss of life. "There is a lot of pressure behind the scenes on Karzai not to go to a runoff," a senior Western diplomat said. "But he just doesn't want to accept a victory by default." Karzai has said he wants to go ahead with the vote, while the U.S. worries the largely symbolic election might trigger new Taliban attacks and do little to establish legitimacy for Karzai in the eyes of Afghanistan’s people. The White House had sought to portray Karzai’s willingness to engage in a runoff as a victory in itself for corrupt Afghan politics. Abdullah said he’s still open to a power-sharing deal with Karzai.