KABUL: Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah yesterday demanded election organisers stop counting ballots because of what he said was widespread fraud, potentially derailing what is seen as a make-or-break vote before most foreign troops leave.
Millions of Afghans turned out on Saturday for a second-round run-off to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, a decisive test of the country’s ambitions to transfer power democratically for the first time in its tumultuous history.
The run-off pitted former anti-Taliban fighter and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against Former World Bank economist and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani after neither secured the 50 percent needed to win outright in the first round on April 5. Afghanistan has for months been consumed by the electoral process which has been marred by attacks by the Taliban who say the vote is a US ploy.
Abdullah said preliminary figures and other evidence collected by his team showed mass fraud had undermined the process.
“The counting process should stop immediately and if that continues, it will have no legitimacy,” Abdullah said.
Afghanistan’s foreign backers have long worried that complaints of fraud coupled with a close outcome could give the losing candidate ground to refuse to accept defeat, leading to a struggle for power. Abdullah’s remarks pushed the country closer to that worst-case scenario with many ballot boxes yet to even reach the capital for counting.
Abdullah’s base of support is with the ethnic Tajik minority while his rival Ghani, is a Pashtun. Pashtuns are the biggest ethnic group with about 45 percent of the population.
“From now on, today, we announce that we have no confidence or trust in the election bodies,” Abdullah said. “I call on all our observers to abandon monitoring and return to our provincial offices.”
When asked if there was any way to salvage the election, Abdullah said the UN might be able to intervene and oversee the counting process. REUTERS