The Afghan election commission said Monday that it had set an Oct. 15 date for long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections. But the announcement immediately raised fears of new political deadlock after the country’s power-sharing government denounced the plan as illegitimate. In announcing the date, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, evidently did not coordinate with the government. And a spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive, criticized the scheduling because the electoral reform he had demanded had not gone through. “The current election commission has no legitimacy because it was their weak management of the previous election that brought us on the brink of chaos,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Mr. Abdullah. “Reforming the election process is a precondition to any election, and a part of the larger reform is the changing of current commission officials.”
Articles about voting issues in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
A senior member of Afghanistan’s election commission survived an assassination attempt Saturday when a suicide bomber targeted his vehicle in Kabul, killing one of his employees and wounding two others, officials said. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack on Awal Rehman Rodwal, the regional director at the Independent Election Commission, which comes after more than a month-long lull in Taliban raids on the capital.“This morning when Rodwal was leaving for work, there was an explosion before he got into his car,” Noor Mohmmad Noor, an IEC spokesman told AFP. “Rodwal escaped the attack unharmed.”
Afghanistan has been held hostage by political stalemate for months. On September 21st it was finally broken, when the country’s two feuding presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing agreement. Though the ceremony, at the Arg, the presidential palace in the capital Kabul, was brief and low-key, the deal will radically—and perhaps wisely—change the country’s political framework. Neither man spoke and neither looked quite at ease. But the agreement will at least allow the new government to get on with the massive task of winning the confidence of a country that has been waiting for the deadlock to end. The four-page document, signed in the presence of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and later by witnesses James Cunningham, the American ambassador, and Jan Kubis, the United Nations’ senior Afghanistan representative (both of whom were banned from the palace ceremony by Mr Karzai), divests the president of his vast powers.
Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has been officially declared the new president of Afghanistan, after three months of political deadlock was resolved through a new, untested power-sharing arrangement with his arch rival. Ghani signed the agreement with Abdullah Abdullah, his adversary in presidential elections in June that left the country suspended in acrimony, fraud allegations and political paralysis. Under the deal, Ghani will run the cabinet and be in charge of strategic functions, while Abdullah will be able to appoint a “chief executive” who will be in charge of daily duties. Neither man appeared overjoyed as they signed the deal. When the election results were finally declared, the ranking official did not use the words “winner” or “loser”, nor did he announce the final voting figures.
Afghan presidential rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday signed a power sharing deal to form a National Unity Government. The signing ceremony took place at the presidential palace in Kabul with outgoing President Hamid Karzai and Afghan elders as well as religious leaders present on the occasion. The two candidates shook hands and hugged each other after singing the long-awaited political deal. Karzai then briefly addressed the gathering and congratulated both Ghani and Abdullah on reaching the power sharing arrangement.
Afghanistan’s election commission announced on Sunday it has completed the audit that will determine the country’s next president. The contested presidential election has seen both presidential hopefuls, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, accusing each other of industrial-scale fraud, fomenting revolt, and endorsing violence. As of Monday, the ballots have been sent to the electoral complaints commission, who will grant Ghani and Abdullah 24 hours to log any complaints they may have. The complaints commission will then have 48 hours to address their complaints and submit the final result to the electoral commission for review. The electoral commission is expected to announce the final results by the end of the week. If similar announcements in the past are any guide, however, this will likely be delayed. The first round of votes on 5 April was noticeable for its relative absence of violence, and the country underwent a brief spell of optimism. The second round of election on 14 June was a departure from this original feeling of euphoria, and was marred by claims and counter claims of fraud between the two candidates.
The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah once more brought Afghanistan’s troubled electoral process to the brink on Monday, insisting that he had won the disputed vote and vowing to reject any government formed on the basis of it. An audit of 100 percent of the ballots cast in the June runoff election is expected to conclude this week, and nearly all observers expect Mr. Abdullah’s opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to be declared the winner. Mr. Abdullah’s supporters have been suggesting that he form a parallel government, which Western diplomats have worried could lead to disorder or even civil war. But Mr. Abdullah made no mention of a parallel government in a speech to his top officials, running mates and supporters, or at a brief news conference afterward, and did not ask his supporters to take to the streets to protest the results.
“The best solution for the current situation is the announcement of final results. The international community has shown readiness to support the results,” Ghani said. Ghani was declared the winner in preliminary results from the June 14 run-off ballot with 56 percent of the vote, giving him a lead of some 1.2 million votes. But his rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, charged that massive fraud of more than two million votes had denied him victory, and on Monday he said he would reject the outcome if the audit did not throw out enough ballots to make him president. The United States brokered a deal between the feuding parties to form a unity government that would include the new position of chief executive, who would enjoy significant powers despite losing the election. The aim of the deal was to prevent the dispute from descending into street demonstrations and possible ethnic conflict.
Afghanistan faces its most serious crisis in a decade. This time, however, it is not caused by an emboldened Taliban but by growing friction between the two contenders for president. Only a determined effort by the United States and other NATO allies can prevent an escalation into violence. Many Westerners and Afghans embraced this year’s presidential election as an opportunity to move on from President Hamid Karzai, whose relationship with Western leaders dramatically deteriorated in recent years. But the election results have been contentious. The first round of voting was in April. No candidate secured 50% of the vote, though former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah led with 45%. The two candidates with the largest shares, Mr. Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, went to a run-off on June 14. The preliminary results showed Mr. Ghani ahead with roughly 56% of the vote, yet allegations of fraud mounted.
An audit of votes from Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election has been completed, officials say, but results will not be made public for days. Candidate Abdullah Abdullah withdrew observers from the audit, amid fraud concerns. His rival Ashraf Ghani also withdrew his team after a UN request. Both camps believe they won June’s poll and both alleged widespread fraud.