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Hamid Karzai's election setback
What the Afghan president's resistance to a runoff means for his country, and for President Obama
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ow's this for a "major test for a young president," said Jake Tapper in ABC News. "As feared, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to accept" the conclusion of a United Nations review that there was "so much fraud" in the August election that Karzai didn't win 50 percent of the vote and must enter a runoff election with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said this puts on hold any decision on U.S. troop levels, and raises doubt about whether we have a credible partner in the Afghan government.

Rahm Emanuel's warning, said Joe Klein in Time, "seemed designed to pressure Hamid Karzai to allow a runoff election and clean up his act." But it also sent a message to Abdullah Abdullah, who ran second in the election, that he needs to "make a deal with Karzai now." Abdullah may be the man of Afghanistan's future, but most analysts think Hamid Karzai—"who is Pashtun royalty—will win a head-to-head" runoff, so Abdullah should concede now in return for a power-sharing agreement if he wants some power right away.

A delay in the election might not be a bad thing for the U.S., said Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal. Yes, it "could slow down the Obama administration’s decision about how many troops to send and what strategy to pursue. And that isn’t a good thing." But a runoff will remove the questions about President Hamid Karzai that have been "hanging over Afghanistan for weeks—and by extension over American policy in Afghanistan." If Karzai agrees to a runoff and wins, he "could possibly emerge from the election controversy appearing to be the kind of solid leader American officials need" to continue stabilizing Afghanistan.

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