Protests under way as Abdullah shuns vote count

June 22, 2014 - 6:51:34 am

KABUL: The United Nations yesterday urged Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah to return to the electoral process after he dropped out earlier this week, accusing the organisers and the president of fraud.

Abdullah withdrew by declaring his camp would regard any outcome as illegitimate and recalling his observers from the vote count for last week’s run-off election. He also invited the UN to intervene.

“We believe that the task ahead of us is to have the candidates re-engage fully in the electoral process,” UN deputy chief Nicholas Haysom said.

“We would want to emphasise that there is no other way of electing a legitimate leader.”

The run-off had pitted Adbullah against Ashraf Ghani, neither of whom gained the 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright in the first round of elections on April 5.

Abdullah’s withdrawal has intensified long standing concerns about a struggle for power along ethnic lines, casting doubt on Afghanistan’s attempt to transfer power democratically for the first time in its history.

While the vote count is continuing, Abdullah’s withdrawal has heightened tension across the country. At least one deadly gun battle erupted between rival supporters this week.

The election comes as most foreign troops are planning to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.  The fragile state of the society they will leave behind was underscored yesterday by a suicide bombing aimed at a government official.

Ghani’s team has said it is in favour of any process that increases the transparency of the electoral bodies but wants the election to remain under local control.

“We respect the role of the UN....but any solution should be Afghan-led and shouldn’t affect the work of the Independent Election Commission and Complaints Commission,” said spokesman Abbas Noyan.

The commissions were heavily criticised in the first round for lacking transparency.

Both candidates say they failed to properly adjudicate cases of fraud, allowing hundreds of thousands of fake votes to be included in the final tally.

However, Afghan officials and diplomats alike want candidates to give the electoral bodies a chance to prove they have reformed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    REUTERS