Qayoum Karzai, the older brother of Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has dropped out of the race for next month’s presidential elections.
Thursday’s announcement comes after weeks of speculation that the elder Karzai would bow out in favour of Zalmai Rassoul, his brother’s former foreign minister.
Announcing his support of Rassoul at Kabul’s Intercontinental hotel, Qayoum said he did so: “for the sake of unity, the Afghan people asked this sacrifice of us.”
Speaking after Qayoum, Rassoul said such a “strong coalition” is necessary for moving forward towards success.
In joining the team of “moderation and rebuilding”, Rassoul lauded Qayoum for showing that he was “working for the betterment of the country” and operating on a knowledge of what Afghanistan needs most.
It is believed that the incumbent has thrown his support behind Rassoul and called on several candidates, including his brother, to join in supporting Rassoul. Rassoul has been a close ally of Hamid Karzai since the fall of the Taliban.
Qayoum was also absent from Tuesday’s night debate between Rassoul, Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. Election observers said Qayoum’s absence was a sure sign of his impending exit from the race.
Recent polls had put Qayoum at fourth or fifth place in the April 5 polls.
Qayoum’s departure comes after Hedayat Amin Arsala, another former Karzai aide, told the media that he would campaign “alongside” Gul Agha Sherzai, the former governor of eastern Nangarhar province.
Though several candidates were expected to have pulled out from the race by this point, Arsala maintained that his move was purely to campaign together, not an endorsement of the former governor Hamid Karzai had dubbed “the bulldozer”.
Hamid Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in the April 5 polls, which will mark the third presidential elections in Afghanistan. If successful, the ballot will make history as the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in Afghanistan.