Afghan President Hamid Karzai is unlikely to try to bend the rules to stay in office once his term ends in 2014, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, said Monday.
"Unless circumstances change dramatically I'm quite confident that President Karzai will not seek to amend the constitution," Crocker told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
And the former envoy who left his post in Kabul in July said he was also convinced that Karzai would not try to "find some extra-constitutional mechanism that would allow for either prolongation or his re-election."
Karzai was re-elected in 2009 in only the second elections to be held since the ousting of the hardline Islamic Taliban poll from Kabul. But his victory was marred by allegations of widespread voting irregularities.
His term ends in 2014, which coincides with the transfer of security responsibilities from a US-led NATO force to Afghan troops, with about 130,000 US-led troops still in the country, fighting a deadly Taliban-led insurgency.
In April, Karzai said he might call an early presidential election to leave enough time for the new government to handle the planned security transition.
But the Western-backed leader has dismissed claims by opponents that he might delay the vote, amending the constitution to allow himself to stay in office.
The elections pose "a huge multi-faceted challenge and opportunity. It will be the first election of the post-Karzai era, something Afghanistan has not experienced since the fall of the Taliban," Crocker said.
But the Afghan leader would "want to see an election outcome that he literally can live with. Where a successor will not have him brought up on capital charges, which could happen in a state where rule of law is not exactly well-established."
Afghan lawmakers on Saturday endorsed a controversial new spymaster who was nominated by Karzai as part of a cabinet reshuffle, seen as his bid to secure his powerbase before anointing a successor to stand in 2014.
Crocker said he believed Karzai would be acting not as "a king-maker, but would be looking to see contenders emerge with whom he can co-exist, very likely on the same compound for security reasons.
"Losing an election in embryonic or unstable democracies is no joke."
And acknowledging the dangers for Karzai -- whose brother Ahmed Wali Karzai was assassinated in July 2011 -- Crocker said "the future he envisions is one in which he's actually alive."
Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in late 2001 by a US-led invasion, is under increasing domestic and international pressure to reform his administration.