AFGHANISTAN

Karzai's Challenger May Boycott Runoff

President Hamid Karzai’s political rival could boycott the upcoming runoff election if certain leaders of Afghanistan’s election commission are not removed. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah believes the Independent Election Commission includes three prominent Karzai supporters and is biased against him, Karzai’s aides say. Though Abdullah has publicly promised to participate in the November 7 runoff, reports of his threat to pull out could lead to further questioning of the legitimacy of any new government. Abdullah’s aides fear entering into the race could lead to a reproduction of the fraud that discredited the initial August election, though the challenger himself denies the boycott reports. “Lots of our international friends won't be happy. We will have them on our backs,” Abdullah’s first running mate, Homayoun Shah Assefy, said of the possible boycott. “But for the interest of our country, is a rigged and controversial election better than boycotting the election? I think the second.” Karzai’s aides said they are deeply concerned that Abdullah might drop out of the race, saying he is threatening to boycott unless he gets a pre-election deal for a coalition government.