Iran’s Ahmadinejad jumps the gun on Afghan poll
By Golnar Motevalli
On Friday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — accused by thousands of Iranians back in June of stealing Iran’s own disputed election — congratulated Afghan president Hamid Karzai on being re-elected.
It was a bit premature: even Karzai himself hasn’t actually claimed victory in last month’s presidential poll.
While in Iran, the election results were announced swiftly after polls closed, in Afghanistan there is still no official result a month after the vote, and a second round run-off could now be delayed until next year.
A preliminary count of votes shows Karzai with a majority, but the election has been marred by accusations of fraud, most levelled at Karzai’s supporters.
The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” and has ordered a recount of 10 percent of polling stations, which could mean ballots are nullified and Karzai may face a second-round run-off.
Afghanistan has not experienced the kind of post-election protests that ran in Iran after the election there, but diplomats in Kabul fear that a disputed election result could undermine the government and increase instability.
Comparisons between Karzai’s election and Ahmadinejad’s are awkward for Western leaders, especially U.S. President Barack Obama, who has already sent thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan and is considering whether to send more.
A few months ago I asked Karzai as he left a press conference in Kabul if he had spoken to Ahmadinejad about the elections in Iran when the two men met at a summit.
At that time anti-Ahmadinejad protests were at their height in Iran. Karzai simply replied, “we just met and exchanged greetings”.
I asked Karzai if he had sought any advice or tips from his Iranian counterpart about how to conduct an election campaign. Karzai laughed-off my question and continued his way out of the room, surrounded by security and the usual scrum of photographers.
(File photo of Ahmadinejad and Karzai)