The Taliban yesterday called for a boycott of the upcoming run-off in Afghanistan’s presidential election and threatened violence against anyone who participates.
“The Islamic emirate [of Afghanistan] once again informs all the people that no one should participate in this American process and should boycott the process,” said a Taliban statement received by e-mail.
“The mujahidin are fully prepared to defeat this process,” it said, adding: “Anyone who participates and gets hurt will be responsible for their own losses.”
Afghanistan’s fraud-tainted first-round presidential election on Aug. 20 was hit by a vicious Taliban campaign that has been blamed for keeping turnout below 40 percent.
Afghans are due to vote again on Nov. 7 after Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed earlier this week to a second round run-off against his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, following fraud investigations.
Almost 1 million of Karzai’s share of the preliminary results — around one-third of all votes cast for him — were eliminated for fraud, cutting his lead to below the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory.
The Taliban statement, the first reaction from the insurgent group to the run-off announcement, confirms fears that security will be a major issue for a successful second-round ballot.
Almost 200 violent incidents around the first vote were attributed to the Taliban, including amputations of fingers marked with purple ink as proof of voting, and rocket and grenade attacks on polling stations.
While voter turnout across the country was kept to below 40 percent, in southern regions where Taliban presence is strongest it was just 5 percent to 10 percent.
Speculation persists that Karzai and Abdullah could reach a deal that will negate the need for the run-off, as US envoy Richard Holbrooke said on Friday he expected fewer problems this time round than last.
“It is reasonable to hope that there will be less irregularities this time for several reasons,” Holbrooke told reporters.
“One, there are only two candidates. Two, there’s the experience factor. Three, the international community, including the forces under General [Stanley] McChrystal’s command, are going to go all out to help make this a success,” he said.
McChrystal will have more troops to deploy than he had on Aug. 20, when the first round of elections was held, he said.