KABUL: Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory yesterday in Afghanistan’s disputed election, blaming fraud for putting him behind in preliminary results.
Abdullah told a rally of thousands of rowdy supporters in Kabul he would fight on to win the presidency, but he called for patience from loyalists who demanded he declare a “parallel government” to rule the country.
“We are proud, we respect the votes of the people, we were the winner,” Abdullah said. “Without any doubt or hesitation, we will not accept a fraudulent result, not today, not tomorrow, never.”
Before he spoke, a huge photograph of President Hamid Karzai was ripped down from the stage -- underlining the boiling anger among Abdullah’s supporters after Monday’s preliminary result in favour of poll rival Ashraf Ghani.
The election stand-off has sparked concern that protests could spiral into ethnic violence and even lead to a return to the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-1996 civil war.
Both Abdullah and Ghani called for the country to remain united as it faces a difficult transfer of power at the same time that 50,000 US-led Nato troops wind down their battle against Taliban insurgents and aid money declines.
“Afghanistan’s unity is never in question,” Ghani, a former World Bank economist, told reporters.
“We accept the preliminary result of the election, and I ask all my countrymen to patiently wait for the final results.
“Our votes are clean and will pass any auditing.”
President Karzai, the United Nations and the United States all called for candidates to respect the election time table, which allows for auditing and complaints before the official result is released around July 24.
“The results are not final and are subject to change, and... it would be premature for either of the candidates to claim victory,” the UN mission in Afghanistan said, in apparent criticism of Abdullah.
The mission urged both campaigns to prevent supporters “from taking steps that could lead to civil disorder and instability.”
Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term in office, has stayed publicly neutral in the lengthy election, but Abdullah supporters accuse him of fixing the run-off vote in Ghani’s favour.
The president, who came to power after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, welcomed the result announcements, but said the winner would be known only “after complaints are addressed and genuine votes separated”.
Earlier, the United States issued a strong warning over reports that Abdullah would form a “parallel government” in defiance of the results — which said Ghani took 56.4 percent of the vote to Abdullah’s 43.5 percent.
US President Barack Obama spoke with Abdullah Abdullah on Monday night to call for calm and dialogue and urge review of fraud charges in that country’s election, the White House said yesterday.
“The president made clear ... that we expect a thorough review of all reasonable allegations of fraud, that there is no justification for resorting to violent or extra-constitutional measures,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing. “Any such move would cost Afghanistan the financial and security assistance of the United States.”
Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, said US Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Kabul on Friday in a bid to help solve the crisis.
Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the allegations of poll fraud were a “grave concern”, and that he hoped a credible outcome could be reached in order to allow the new Afghan president to sign a security pact before a Nato summit in September as international forces wind down their Afghan mission.