Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai appears ready to accept that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation's disputed presidential election, and therefore, is amenable to face a run-off, American and European officials said Monday.
The New York Times quoted the officials as saying that Karzai was moving toward accepting the findings of an international audit that stripped him of nearly a third of his votes in the first round, leaving him below the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and declare victory over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.
Karzai's apparent capitulation came after an all-out push by Obama administration officials and their European allies. However, even if Karzai ends his strong resistance to a runoff, that would not resolve the country's political crisis, officials say. It would be difficult to hold a new election quickly, as the Afghan winter approaches, and delaying the selection of a new government until the spring could allow the Taliban to make further gains across the country.
There is a move to push both Karzai and Abdullah towards forming a coalition government to avoid a runoff altogether. Several administration officials cautioned that Karzai could still change his mind, as for him to acquiesce to the demands of the international community puts him in the position of disappointing his followers, including people who showed up at the polls despite widespread threats from the Taliban to disrupt the elections. The United States, one official said, is sympathetic to Karzai's concerns, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged him over the last few days, to be a "statesman" and accept the results.