Of 11 men running for president in Afghanistan, 10 have sought the support of Karzai, who is uniquely influential in a country where personality overrides politics in elections, and where he controls much of the machinery of the state, including the police and a growing bureaucracy, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Karzai, who is rot running for re-election, has not publicly endorsed any candidate, and his spokesman, Aimal Kaizi, said no endorsement would be made.
A poll released Sunday, conducted for the U.S. State Department by Glevum Associates, a research company based in Washington, indicates Afghan voters care little about Karzai's recommendation. Among 2,148 likely voters in April's presidential election, 85 percent said they would not be swayed if Karzai endorsed a candidate.
The poll was conducted through face-to-face interviews, and has a margin of sampling error of plus of minus 2 percentage points.
In many respects, those surveyed said they wanted a president much like Karzai, the Times said. Sixty-one percent said they would vote for a candidate who sought open talks with the Taliban, 51 percent said a good relationship with Pakistan was important and 71 percent said they wanted positive relations with the United States, as Karzai says he does.
Nearly 90 percent said they would not vote for a candidate with a history of corruption, but nearly every candidate has faced allegations of graft and Afghanistan's government is considered among the world's most corrupt, the newspaper said.
"These polls are a new experience for Afghans," Kaizi said. "People are suspicious about why they are being done."