KABUL: US Secretary of State John Kerry told Afghanistan yesterday its transition to a self-reliant state hung in the balance after a contested presidential election, urging officials to focus on investigating all fraud allegations to prove its legitimacy.
The deadlock over the vote has quashed hopes for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan, a concern for Washington as most US-led forces withdraw from the nation this year.
Kerry rushed to Kabul from meetings in China yesterday in a hastily arranged visit for talks with the two presidential contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, as well as incumbent Hamid Karzai and other senior officials.
Preliminary results from a June 14 run-off round put Ghani, a former World Bank official, in the lead but Abdullah rejected the result, calling it a “coup” against the people, and his aides have threatened to set up an alternative administration.
“The election legitimacy hangs in the balance, the future potential of the transition hangs in the balance, so we have a lot to do,” Kerry said after a meeting with UN special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis.
“Our hopes are that there is a road that can be found that will provide that capacity for the questions to be answered, for people’s doubts to be satisfied, and hopefully for a future to be defined. But I can’t tell you that that’s going to be an automatic at this point.”
US officials said Kerry would urge both contenders to agree on a review “of all reasonable allegations of fraud”, which would entail additional audits of the vote count.
“We want a unified, stable and democratic Afghanistan.
It is important that whoever is president is recognised by the people as having become president through a legitimate process, and that the government can unify the people and lead them in the future,” the Secretary of State said after a meeting with Abdullah.
Abdullah’s rejection of the outcome has set the stage for a possible bloody standoff between ethnic groups or even secession of parts of the fragile country, which is already deeply divided along tribal lines.
Ghani, speaking earlier, said he favoured a comprehensive audit. “Our commitment is to ensure that the election process enjoys the integrity and the legitimacy that the people of Afghanistan and the world will believe in,” he said. REUTERS