KABUL: Afghanistan’s feuding presidential candidates signed a deal yesterday to form a national unity government, opening an apparent way forward in a dispute over the fraud-tainted election that threatens to revive ethnic conflict.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah vowed to work together whoever becomes president after an ongoing audit of all eight million votes finally declares the winner of the June 14 election.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Kabul to mediate an end to the impasse, welcomed the deal as a major advance in bringing Afghanistan back from the brink of political chaos as US-led Nato troops withdraw.
But an earlier deal brokered by Kerry last month soon frayed due to disagreements between the candidates, and attention will focus on whether all their supporters accept the latest pact.
The risk of spiralling instability has loomed large in Afghanistan since Abdullah refused to accept preliminary results that put Ghani ahead, accusing his rival of stealing the election by massive ballot-box stuffing.
“Today (we) have taken another step forward in the interests of strengthening national unity... and also to bring hope for the better future for the people of Afghanistan,” Abdullah said, standing beside Ghani and Kerry.
“We are committed to working together on the basis of our common vision for the future of our country.”
The signed text admitted Afghanistan was “in one of the most politically sensitive periods of its history” due to the contested outcome of an election that should herald the country’s first democratic transfer of power.
“We trust each other,” Ghani said. “We will work with each other to fulfil this national duty and obligation for every Afghan.