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Political Crisis in Afghanistan as Election Result Delayed
Jul 04, 2014

Afghanistan’s delayed presidential election for 5 days, as the two candidates wrangle over alleged fraud in a political crisis that threatens the country’s first democratic transfer of power. The 5-day delay is to allow an audit of nearly 2,000 of the 23,000 polling stations nationwide in an anti-fraud audit designed to boost confidence in the vote-counting process.

But both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah say they won on clean votes, and neither appears prepared to accept defeat.

Earlier, Afghanistan’s chief electoral officer Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail resigned in a bid to resolve a political crisis over allegations of massive fraud in the runoff presidential vote earlier this month. He denied any involvement in fraud and said he is stepping down for the national interest.

One of the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah has said his campaign monitors had recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities. He suspended cooperation with the vote counting process. The crisis has threatened what Western officials had hoped would be a peaceful transfer of authority. Amarkhail defended the conduct of the June 14 balloting and called on Abdullah to resume relations with the Independent Election Commission and honour an agreement he had signed to respect its decisions.

Abdullah is running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the race to replace President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. The standoff has upended the process after the Afghans received praise for a relatively smooth first round of voting on April 5, when millions of voters defied a Taliban threat of violence and cast their ballots.

Whoever wins will lead the country as it faces a major transition from the only leader it has known since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban. He also will govern as the U.S. and its allies wind down their combat mission and international aid declines. Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counter-terrorism operations. The delay in the announcement of a winner would mean another delay in finalizing that agreement.

Abdullah and Karzai have proposed that the U.N. step in to mediate between the parties, and the U.N. mission in Afghanistan ready to assist.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who was the runner-up in Karzai’s disputed re-election in 2009, won the first round but failed to gain the majority needed to avoid a runoff. He raised his allegations before any results were released, saying he had to act pre-emptively because reports by some 50,000 campaign monitors deployed at the polls showed Ahmadzai coming from behind with an unrealistic lead.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and an ex-World Bank official, issued no direct public comment. According to the election commission’s official timetable, preliminary results were to be declared on July 2, and final results on July 23. Hamid Karzai has set August 2 as the date for the new president to be inaugurated.

The two candidates came top of an eight-man field, triggering the run-off election as neither reached the 50 per cent threshold needed for outright victory. A smooth handover in Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power would be a major achievement for the international effort to establish a functioning state after the depredations of the Taliban era.


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