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Obama agenda: Afghan runoff canceled

"Afghan election officials canceled a presidential runoff and proclaimed the reelection of President Hamid Karzai on Monday, a day after Karzai's top challenger declared he would not take part in a second round of voting scheduled for Saturday because of a persistent risk of fraud," the Washington Post says.

The Boston Globe calls it Karzai's "win by default." And it adds this context: "American officials hope to help restore legitimacy to Karzai's government by en couraging him to build a reform-minded government that is ethnically representative and includes Abdullah's followers. US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and UN mission chief Kai Eide negotiated with the two camps late into the night Saturday about a power-sharing deal, according to the Western diplomat. But the negotiations broke down early yesterday when Karzai refused a formula for dividing Cabinet posts. If the deal had been accepted, Abdullah would have conceded rather than simply withdraw his candidacy, the diplomat said. Abdullah's decision not to call for a boycott may indicate he is open to talks."

: A Morning Meeting panel discusses whether the cancellation of the runoff election in Afghanistan will impact President Obama's decision on troop deployment

The New York Times' analysis wonders if the Karzai government will have legitimacy. "It will not be easy. As the evidence mounted in late summer that Mr. Karzai's forces had sought to win re-election through widespread fraud to defeat his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, administration officials made no secret of their disgust. How do you consider sending tens of thousands of additional American troops, they asked in meetings in the White House, to prop up an Afghan government regarded as illegitimate by many of its own people? The answer was supposed to be a runoff election. Now, administration officials argue that Mr. Karzai will have to regain that legitimacy by changing the way he governs, at a moment when he is politically weaker than at any time since 2001." 
Abdullah Abdullah's decision to boycott his state's runoff election does not complicate the president's plans for Afghanistan, White House aide Valerie Jarrett said Sunday. Rather, Abdullah's withdrawal from the November contest because of concerns about its fairness is a mostly 'political' move that 'does not markedly change the situation,' explained White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod."