/ 22 October 2009

Afghan MP sees role as king-maker in run-off

The outspoken candidate who placed third in Afghanistan’s presidential election said on Thursday he was considering urging his supporters to boycott the upcoming run-off to protest official corruption.

Ramazan Bashardost, an anti-corruption campaigner and lawmaker, said he was also pondering asking those who voted for him in the August 20 poll to select one of the two candidates in the run-off or to cast a spoiled ballot.

“We are consulting with our supporters and experts right now” on which option to recommend, he said.

“We’ll announce our position in 10 days.”

Afghans are due to vote for their president for a second time this year on November 7 after President Hamid Karzai agreed to contest a run-off with his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

Investigations into allegations of widespread fraud in the first poll found up to 1,3-million votes should be discarded as fraudulent — around one million of them for Karzai, whose share fell below the 50% needed for victory as a result.

“The overall [election] process was a failure, and a corrupt process,” said Bashardost.

“Elsewhere in the world people involved in fraud are sent to jail but here in our country they are praised.”

Karzai and Abdullah will contest the election in a two-man run-off now being organised by electoral authorities.

Bashardost, who won 10,5% of the first-round ballot, told Agence France-Presse he was considering options for how his supporters could use their vote to register their disgust with the process.

He had three options, he said: encouraging those who voted for him first time round to vote for one of the candidates, cast a spoiled ballot, or boycott the election all together.

Karzai and Abdullah have already begun lobbying for support in the run-off, as distribution got under way of ballot papers and indelible ink to polling stations across the country.

“Yes, there has been direct and indirect contact from the candidates asking for my support,” Bashardost said.

“But mark my words, I won’t trade the vote of Afghan people or my supporters in return for a position” in government, he said. “I’ll do what is best for the people of Afghanistan.” — AFP