[QODLink]
Central & South Asia

Karzai ally to back Abdullah in Afghan runoff

Zalmai Rassoul endorses frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah in June vote, after exiting race and leaving just two contenders.

Last updated: 11 May 2014 10:53
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Afghan election frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah has received a major boost to his presidential campaign, with Zalmai Rassoul, a close ally of the current leader, endorsing him after withdrawing from the race.

Rassoul was seen as the favoured candidate of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and his support for Abdullah could be decisive in deal-making to choose Afghanistan's next leader as US-led troops withdraw from the country.

Rassoul's own bid to become president gained little momentum and he came third with just 11.5 percent in the first round of voting, but he remains an influential power-broker.

"I ask the people for the sake of national unity and political stability to vote for Doctor Abdullah, so that we win the election," Rassoul, who resigned as foreign minister to run in the election, told a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported.

He said his support could be a "balance maker" in the run-off election due next month.

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Kabul, said: "Abdullah is a very happy man. If a runoff is called, he is going to need those suppporters who backed Rassoul."

Tyab said the move could see Rassoul securing a position in the next cabinet. 

The second-round vote will pit Abdullah against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in a head-to-head battle, after the two came first and second in the eight-man election on April 5.

Neither candidate secured the 50 percent needed for outright victory. Abdullah garnered 44.9 percent and Ghani received 31.5 percent, according to preliminary results.

First-round results 

The official final first-round result will be announced on Wednesday after weeks of adjudication over fraud complaints.

The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power after defeating Abdullah, was marred by massive fraud in a chaotic process that shook the multinational effort to develop the country after the ousting of the Taliban in 2001.

The eventual winner will lead Afghanistan into a new era as US-led NATO combat troops end their 13-year operation in the country.

The first-round election was hailed as a success by Afghan officials and foreign allies, with turnout far better than in 2009, and the Taliban failing to launch a major attack despite threats to disrupt the vote.

A run-off vote in June - at the height of the traditional "fighting season" - could be more difficult for Afghanistan's stretched security forces to guard.

Another election could be avoided by negotiations in the coming weeks, but both Abdullah and Ghani have dismissed talk of a power-sharing deal.

Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term in office, stayed publicly neutral in the election.

But diplomats in Kabul said Rassoul had received discreet backing from the president in the early stages of the campaign.

450

Source:
Al Jazeera And AFP
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.