Afghan election goes to run-off

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. It is official. There will be a run-off election in Afghanistan. The country's election commission made the announcement today -- and set the date for November 7th. The commission ruled that the first round of voting in August was marred by fraud. The candidate with the most first round votes was incumbent President Hamid Karzai. He had resisted calls for a run-off against his main challenger. But today -- under international pressure -- he agreed. Waheed Omer is a campaign spokesperson for Karzai. He puts a positive spin on the run-off announcement.

WAHEED OMER: Despite all its problems, one thing that it's proved was that we had a policy in place and that policy's worked. And we finally have a result, so it's asking for a second round. I think the next round is very important, it is an historical opportunity for the people in Afghanistan to go again to vote and to choose their next leader. We have two tough weeks ahead of us and will try to make sure that this one is a better process.

WERMAN: Well, a couple of weeks ago, Peter Galbraith, the former deputy UN envoy to Afghanistan told us that the following had to be done to prevent the recurrence of fraud: closing every polling station where there was fraud�.


WERMAN: �Dismissing the election staff in every place that there was fraud, and I'm just wondering is President Karzai willing to take these steps?

WAHEED OMER: Well, I don't think these steps that need to be taken by the president. These are the steps that�necessarily have to be taken by the Independent Election Commission. But one thing I should warn you. For the process that we had before, we�the election commission had to train 160,000 people and deploy them all over Afghanistan. With two weeks that we have for the second round, I don't think we can expect a major change in the process or a major change in the structure of the Independent Election Commission. We just only have enough time to hold the next elections.

WERMAN: Right. Because I mean the logistical obstacles will be enormous. I mean it took up a long time to set up the first elections.

WAHEED OMER: [OVERLAPPING] Absolutely. Absolutely. So as far as we re concerned, we're not very sure that we will be able to hold these elections in this time, but we have assurances from the Independent Election Commission. We have assurances from our forces in the eyes of NATO and the international community. And we hope that the international community stands by us in this very important juncture. And that we have an election that is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people and in the eyes of the world community.

WERMAN: The election though, is run by the government of Afghanistan. So isn't it up to the government to make sure that there's security and that the election is fair?

WAHEED OMER: This is one misunderstanding that I need to correct, here. What we call the Independent Election Commission is the constitution body, but it is independent from the government. In other words, in Afghanistan the elections are not held by the government but by an independent commission which is a constitution body not attached to the government.

WERMAN: After all the allegations of fraud, do you think Afghans will be more or less inclined to come out and vote in a second round?

WAHEED OMER: Well, I see it from the other side. If we see it from another outlook, obviously this is a country not in a perfect condition in terms of security, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of poetical stability. But we have a policy in place. That policy resulted in a run-off. And that run-off is now being taken. So what I think is important at this juncture is that the people of Afghanistan trust the process because it works. And I don't think that was is called irregularities in the elections will have any major impact on the next round of the elections

WERMAN: That was Waheed Omer, campaign spokesperson for Afghan president Hamid Karzai. He spoke to us from Kabul.