President Obama praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai this morning for agreeing to a runoff election -- balloting that the US hopes gives legitimacy to the regime in Kabul and is expected to free Obama to decide whether to send more US troops.
"I welcome President Karzai’s statement today accepting the Independent Electoral Commission’s certification of the August 20 election results, and agreeing to participate in a second round of the election. This is an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will," Obama said in a statement issued through the White House.
"While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy. The Afghan Constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai’s decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people," Obama added. (His full statement is below.)
Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helped persuade Karzai to accept an independent commission's findings that there was enough voter fraud in the first round of balloting to push him below a majority and force a runoff, expected on Nov. 7.
Kerry stood next to Karzai today when he announced he would accept the runoff, and said that Karzai's move had transformed a crisis into a "moment of great opportunity."
(Kerry's full prepared remarks are also below.)
I welcome President Karzai’s statement today accepting the Independent Electoral Commission’s certification of the August 20 election results, and agreeing to participate in a second round of the election. This is an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will.
While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy. The Afghan Constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai’s decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people.
I congratulate the Afghan people on the patience and resilience they have shown throughout this long election process. Given Afghanistan’s recent history, it is extraordinary that they were able to overcome threats and violence to express their democratic right to choose their leader. Insecurity in the country prevented some Afghans from voting, but it is a testimony to the bravery of the Afghan people that so many of them did come out to vote in the first round under tremendously difficult circumstances.
I commend both the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission for carrying out their mandates. Throughout this process, the United States has been interested above all in the strength and independence of those institutions, and the need for them to fulfill their mandate on behalf of all Afghans.
I congratulate President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah, who both earned the support of voters from across the country. I also commend all of the other Presidential candidates who made this such a vibrant campaign.
It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice. We look forward to a second round of voting, and the completion of the process to choose the President of Afghanistan. In that effort, the United States and the international community are committed to partnering with the Afghan people.
Thank you very much. I am honored to be here today for what I believe is an important moment for the future of Afghanistan. With the nation facing extraordinary challenges, a time of real uncertainty has been transformed into a time of great opportunity. I am especially pleased to stand with two friends, Kai Eide, whose diligence and persistence were critical throughout the election process, and President Hamid Karzai, who has shown genuine leadership with his decision today.
In August, Afghans showed their commitment to a democratic future when millions cast their ballots -- many for the first time, often at great risk and sometimes paying a terrible price. The challenges of holding this election in an incredibly difficult security environment cannot be overstated. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who risked -- and in some cases sacrificed -- their lives so that others could exercise their rights. As one might expect in the midst of conflict, it was far from a perfect election -- but that does not in any way diminish the commitment and sacrifice that made this election possible.
Since then, there has been no clear resolution, leaving many Afghans with legitimate doubts about the future. Today, President Karzai showed statesmanship by deciding to move forward, and to strengthen the country by embracing the Constitution and the rule of law. His agreement to hold the runoff will allow the national leadership to govern with legitimacy. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has made the same decision. Both have demonstrated their dedication to building a lasting democracy.
Even as we recognize this occasion, we are all mindful of the difficult work ahead. The decisions made and actions taken over the next months will be what really give meaning to this moment. The future of Afghanistan will ultimately be determined by Afghans civilians and through good governance --not soldiers or the international community. If this is to be a real turning point, we must strengthen the capacity of the government at every level to provide for its citizens. President Karzai has committed to pursuing reform wherever necessary to better meet their needs, and the United States and the international community must be true partners in this effort.
Today, Afghanistan recommits to the democratic process with the understanding that the mark of any healthy democracy is a clear process with an uncertain outcome. I am grateful to President Karzai for his personal hospitality over these last five days, for the seriousness of purpose he brought to lengthy and sometimes difficult deliberations, and for his openness to ways of resolving differences.
Now we commend a moment of promise for President Karzai, Dr. Abdullah and most importantly the Afghan people, who took a significant step towards the better future that we all hope to build. Thank you.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.