“Karzai Is Trying to Keep His Sway After Term Ends”
The New York Times, April 4, 2014, p.A1
“American officials have ignored him, and Afghanistan’s presidential contenders have tried to persuade voters that they will be different from him. But those hoping to see President Hamid Karzai slip into a quiet retirement may be disappointed in the months to come. On Saturday, Afghans will vote in a presidential election that Mr. Karzai has shaped at every stage. He narrowed the candidate field, dissuading potential candidates from entering the race and forcing his brother Qayum to leave it. He handpicked the officials who will preside over any election disputes. Then he blessed two of the three leading contenders with tens of thousands of dollars from his office’s slush funds, hedging his bets that at least one candidate open to his influence will make it to a runoff, according to senior Afghan officials. It may be well into June before that second vote can be held, and Mr. Karzai will remain president in the meantime. Few who know Mr. Karzai personally, including some of his critics, see a naked power grab in the president’s maneuvering. They say Mr. Karzai is driven by a deep-seated belief that he is Afghanistan’s indispensable man, uniquely suited to guide the country through the tumultuous years of transition ahead. … as much as they would prefer to see his influence end, the Americans are still counting on him in one respect: Some hope he can help mediate what is expected to be a messy aftermath of an election season in which candidates have already accused one another of planning to commit fraud and have pledged not to accept the results if they lose.”
Quickie analysis: Out of office but not out of power.