US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Saturday that the two candidates in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential run-off have agreed to a full audit of every single ballot cast in the vote.
"Both candidates have committed to participate in and stand by the results of the largest most possible audit. Every single ballot that was cast will be audited, all eight million," Kerry said at a news conference.
The secretary of state made the announcement following two days of intense negotiations between the two candidates, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, in the Afghan capital Kabul. Kerry also met with the country’s President Hamid Karzai, who will eventually step down after 13 years in power.
The two candidates have been locked in an acrimonious dispute ever since the June 14 run-off. Preliminary results from the vote put Ghani in the lead, but Abdullah alleged the election had been marred by fraud, declaring himself the winner.
The pair have not met in person since the vote, but Kerry managed to bring both men together at a UN compound in central Kabul for the news conference announcing the audit.
'Both candidates have agreed to abide by the results of the audit,' Kerry says
“This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process,” Kerry said, flanked by the two men.
In a show of unity, Ghani kissed Abdullah on the cheek after addressing reporters.
Kerry said the audit, which will be carried out in Kabul, was to begin within 24 hours, with NATO and Afghan forces transporting ballot boxes to the capital. He stressed that the audit would be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards, adding that it could take weeks to complete.
"The winner will serve as president and will immediately form a government of national unity," Kerry told reporters.
Karzai later said that he welcomed the news of the audit.
“I welcome those announcements and I hope that the 100 percent audit of the votes will take place and start as soon as possible,” he said.
Kerry said Karzai was “willing to stay the course” until an inauguration for his successor could be held. The swearing-in ceremony was originally scheduled for August 2.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-12