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Afghanistan is getting ready for a second-round presidentialelection between President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign MinisterAbdullah Abdullah. The second round comes after the electioncommission nullified nearly one million votes cast in August’spresidential polls. The investigation brought Mr. Karzai’s votecount below 50 percent, enough to trigger a runoff. The UnitedNations has begun delivering ballots across Afghanistan to preparefor the November 7 runoff.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the runoff reflectsthe will of the Afghan people and he may withhold his decision onU.S. troop levels in Afghanistan until after the new polls. Theremarks followed his meeting with U.S. Senate Foreign RelationsCommittee Chairman John Kerry, who has just returned from theAfghan capital, Kabul.

“I think you really want to know that this has worked and youwant to know what kind of government is coming out of it,” Obamasaid.

An analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, HaseebHumayoon, believes Mr. Karzai may win again. “If we look at thenumbers and how they have turned out, President Karzai has a muchstronger base than Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and that may play a rolein the second round as well,” he explained.

But questions remain about the deals Mr. Karzai struck withlocal powers of remote Afghan regions to win their support.

“I think one has to look at that with a lot of caution, becausewhile electorally those deals might have returns, in terms ofgovernment efficiency down the line they are questionable,”Humayoon added.

However Rick Nelson at the Center for Strategic andInternational Studies in Washington, D.C. says it is wrong to lookat the Afghan political landscape through a Western lens.

“President Karzai has been very aggressive in trying to cutdeals and trying to build partnerships,” he noted. “But given thecircumstances in which he is trying to operate, if he can cut dealswith rival factions and it results in a stable Afghanistan, that issomething we may want to support.”

Another scenario presented by some experts is one in which theAugust election runner up, Mr. Abdullah, wins this time around.Nelson says he may not belong to the Pashtun majority tribe, but heis not that different politically than Mr. Karzai.

“He is not a full Pashtun, he is a little bit Tajik as well, andthat may change the dynamics with the United States,” Mr. Nelsonadded. “But it probably is not going to change the overall U.S.policy too much.”

President Karzai has been very aggressive in trying tocut deals and trying to build partnerships. -Rick Nelson, the Center for Strategic and InternationalStudies

There is also the chance that the two contenders will come upwith some sort of an agreement to share power and avoid the runoff.While some analysts say this is unlikely, Nelson is optimistic.

“If there is a unity government in advance, it certainly putsthe whole election legitimacy question aside, and will enable theUnited States and NATO to move forward in their partnership withAfghanistan,” he said.

In Washington, U.S. officials have said a power-sharingarrangement between the two leaders would be totally up to theAfghans.

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