Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has called on Afghan election organisers to stop counting ballots over fraud allegations, in the latest hurdle to the country’s first transition of power.
Millions of Afghans turned out for Saturday’s run-off poll to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.
The run-off pitted Abdullah, a former foreign minister, against former finance minister Ashraf Ghani. Neither candidate secured the 50 percent needed to win outright in the first round on April 5.
Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban fighter, said preliminary figures and other evidence collected by his team showed mass fraud had undermined the process, and demanded counting be frozen.
“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.”
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 in the conflict-plagued country.
Abdullah suggested that the election might be saved if the United Nations decides to intervene and oversee the counting process, but a UN spokesman said the international body regretted Abdullah’s announcement.
Foreign troops heading toward exit
The critical election was held as most foreign troops are preparing to withdraw from the country, leaving behind a still strong Taliban insurgency and a deepening economic crisis.
Over his final term in office, Karzai’s relationship with the West has grown increasingly bitter, culminating in his refusal late last year to sign a deal with the United States allowing it to leave a small contingent of US troops to stay beyond 2014.
Despite the billions spent on reconstruction, Afghanistan relies on aid for much of its income and some donors may refuse to disburse cash if there is no international force on the ground.
Karzai’s administration has failed to pass laws demanded by the international community. As a result of the impasse, Afghan banks risk being put on an international blacklist later this month, potentially disrupting $10 billion worth of annual imports.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-18