Afghan President Hamid Karzai was returned to power after election officials canceled a needless runoff vote yesterday, but was warned he would need to work harder to retain the West’s support after a flawed electoral process.


The result means that Washington and its allies — engaged in a costly war to stabilize the country — will have to work with a partner whose legitimacy is bound to be questioned. Karzai himself faces the prospect of having to work with a newly strengthened opposition.


The government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC) called off the Nov. 7 presidential runoff a day after Karzai’s only rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew citing doubts it would be a fair vote, sparking efforts to have the runoff canceled.


The IEC, which had said on Sunday the vote would proceed, said it changed its mind to spare the Afghan people the expense and security risk of staging a run-off with only one candidate.


IEC chief Azizullah Ludin told a news conference the commission was also concerned a one-candidate race would raise concerns about the legitimacy of the presidency. The first round of voting in August was marred by widespread fraud in favor of Karzai.