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Reports: Abdullah May Boycott Afghan Presidential Runoff

Reports: Abdullah May Boycott Afghan Presidential Runoff

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Sources close to Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah say he may pull out of next week's runoff election against President Hamid Karzai, due to concerns about the credibility of the poll.

Mr. Abdullah had given President Karzai until Saturday to remove the country's Independent Election Commission chief, Azizullah Lodin.

It was one of several conditions that Mr. Abdullah had voiced this week to avoid a repeat of the massive fraud that marred the August 20 presidential election.

As of Saturday, President Karzai had not agreed to his opponent's demands.

Mr. Abdullah is expected to hold a press conference Sunday about the November seventh vote. News reports cite sources close to the former foreign minister as saying Mr. Abdullah may pull out of the runoff.

A spokesman for the Afghan election commission, Noor Mohammad Noor, tells VOA that legally, Mr. Abdullah cannot officially withdraw a week away from the vote.

"Now is too late, according to IEC procedure of the election law, the withdraw time is already done, so they must continue," said Noor.

Speaking from Kabul, the director of Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, Haroun Mir, says a boycott would have a major impact on the public's perception of the country's government.

"If Dr. Abdullah boycotts and we have a very low voter turnout, then President Karzai will be declared winner, but he will not be considered a legitimate president," said Mir.

Mir says that he believes President Karzai would have a hard time asserting his authority in Afghanistan's northern areas, which are the base for Mr. Abdullah's support.

Afghan election officials say they plan to increase the number of voting stations for the runoff, despite concerns that it could lead to more fraud than in the first vote.

The Taliban also has vowed to intensify its attacks leading up to the November seventh election. Several days ago, insurgents launched an attack on a Kabul guest house that killed five United Nations staff members.