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Afghan president says to stay in office till polls | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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KABUL, (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday he would accept the national consensus for presidential polls to be held in August but would not step down before the election took place.

The young Afghan democracy has been thrown into turmoil by a constitution dispute which can only undermine faith in the system itself as it struggles to combat a resilient Taliban insurgency that is growing in both size and scope.

Karzai said above all he wants to respect the constitution which states his term ends on May 21, after elections are held. But the election commission says polls cannot be held until Aug. 20 as they could not be organised during the winter and extra security forces cannot be in place till then. “Now that everybody is seeking a national consensus, not the constitution for elections, I respect that, and I have accepted the decision of the election commission,” Karzai said.

Opposition leaders have demanded for an interim leader to replace Karzai between May and August, saying his government will not be legitimate after May 21 when his term ends, but Karzai said the constitution made no reference to this.

“As long as there is no election, the president will stay in office,” Karzai said.

The president said the national consensus was for polls to be held in August and opposition leaders either had to accept that or accept polls next month. “I am calling for all sides to agree on the national consensus. We must respect the national consensus and stand by it and let the commission prepare for the election,” he said.

The United States supports the August election date by when the 17,000 extra troops it is sending to Afghanistan to help secure the polls will be in place across the volatile south.

The election is the key test of progress for Afghanistan this year, diplomats say, and if the polls are carried out successfully they will eclipse any other failures and if they fail will eclipse any other successes in the war-torn country.

Many of Karzai’s rivals worry the president is preparing to use the power of government to gain an unfair advantage in the poll and either want him to stand aside in May or give some concrete guarantee he will not use his office to campaign.

Rising insecurity and rampant corruption have left Karzai increasingly unpopular, but with many deals still being cut behind the scenes between the country’s political power brokers, a second term remains a possibility.