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Despite threats of violence against civilians and security forces by Taliban extremists, on August 20th the citizens of Afghanistan voted in the first popular election since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001.
Following their constitutional mandates, the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission worked cooperatively to complete investigations, audits and recounts. They determined that none of the candidates received the requisite 50 percent of the vote, and thus, in compliance with the country's constitution, a runoff election would be necessary.
The candidates for the Afghan Presidency, including the 2 who led at the polls, incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, accepted the Commission's ruling and agreed to participate in the second round of elections. "The leadership shown by the President, Dr. Abdullah, and all the other candidates has strengthened Afghanistan and kept faith with the best interests of the Afghan people," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The United States has stressed the importance of adhering closely to the process established by Afghan law and carried out by Afghan institutions. Secretary Clinton said, "Afghan plans are in place to enable a second round of voting, and we pledge our support to the election authorities to help them achieve a conclusion to the elections process. We remain committed to partnering with the Afghan people and their government on our shared objectives of strengthening good governance, tackling corruption, increasing economic opportunities, and improving security for all Afghans."
U.S. President Barack Obama noted that the candidates' willingness to abide by constitutional law means that there is a path forward toward the completion of this election process:
"President Karzai as well as the other candidates, I think have shown that they have the interests of the Afghan people at heart, that this is a reflection of a commitment to rule of law, and an insistence that the Afghan people's will should be done."
"It is now vital that all elements of Afghan society continue to come together to advance democracy, peace and justice," said President Obama in a written statement. "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."