Threatening to derail a tenuous Afghan political deal again, a top aide to the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said Tuesday that the campaign would pull out of an internationally monitored vote audit unless changes to the process were made by Wednesday. The United Nations and the Afghan election commission said the audit, which was initiated under a deal brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and salvaged this month only after another personal intervention by him, would continue with or without Mr. Abdullah’s observers. But after a month and a half of frenetic activity by the international community to conduct what the United Nations has described as the most exhaustive election review in its history, some 6,000 out of 23,000 ballot boxes still need to be audited, according to Afghan and international officials. The stalled audit and new brinkmanship by Mr. Abdullah cast grave doubt on plans to hold a presidential inauguration by Sept. 2. And the crisis now seems likely to bog down the NATO summit meeting set for Sept. 4 that was scheduled to discuss Afghanistan’s future.
The disagreement has thrown another twist into a political deadlock that has been marked by accusations of systemic fraud, the threat of factional violence and potential power grabs. The audit itself had already broken down into brawls three times — last week, three people were actually hospitalized with scissor and knife wounds — and on Tuesday a fistfight between senior campaign officials in the Independent Election Commission headquarters made a fourth.
The fight broke out after Mr. Abdullah’s chief election auditor, Fazul Ahmad Manawi, declared the audit process a “joke,” and said that Mr. Abdullah would not only cease cooperating with the audit but also withdraw from the election process entirely, officials said.