After a potential opening last week to ease Afghanistan’s political crisis, the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah signaled on Sunday that more deadlock was ahead, promising again that he would not accept any decisions made by the country’s election commission after the panel rejected a list of his demands. “From today onward, we reject all the decisions and activities of the Independent Election Commission, which will not have any legal value anyway,” said Baryalai Arsalai, Mr. Abdullah’s campaign manager. “They have no intention to assess the fraudulent votes and separate the dirty votes from the clean votes.” In the two weeks since the presidential runoff vote, the election process has been shadowed by accusations of fraud and conspiracy, with the Abdullah campaign accusing a range of officials all the way to the presidential palace of rigging the vote against him. There have been dramatic protests flooding the streets of Kabul, and secretly captured phone calls that allegedly show election officials conspiring to rig the race.
Ashraf Ghani believes he has won Afghanistan’s heavily contested presidential election by more than 1.3 million votes, according to data compiled by his campaign team. Ghani said the vocal support of clerics, a higher turnout of women, a series of televised town-hall style meetings and polling day transport for potential voters enabled him to pick up support from more than 2 million extra voters in the second round of the poll. “One of the reasons, the most significant, is that we convened a meeting of more than 3,000 ulema (Islamic scholars) … these, after they endorsed us, carried out a mosque-to-mosque campaign, issued fatwas and [held] Friday prayers where they asked the women to participate,” the former World Bank official told journalists at a news conference in Kabul.
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday defended himself against electoral fraud allegations that have tipped the country into a political crisis, vowing to fight for every ballot cast for him. Ghani’s poll rival Abdullah Abdullah has said he will reject the result of the ongoing vote count due to what he claimed was “blatant fraud” committed by Ghani, the election authorities and outgoing President Hamid Karzai. “I ask Dr Abdullah as a national figure to respect the rule of law,” Ghani told supporters in his first speech since the dispute over alleged fake votes erupted. “We are all tired of the language of threats and unlawfulness… Our votes are clean, and we will defend each vote,” he said. Ghani, who travelled abroad for dental treatment after the June 14 election, returned to Kabul to deliver an uncompromising message to Abdullah, who has boycotted the Independent Election Commission (IEC). “It is the people’s right to elect their leader through votes. Some people have created a situation where they threaten that right,” he said.
Thousands of angry protesters marched on the Afghan president’s palace on Friday in support of candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations that mass fraud had been committed during the presidential election by organizers and state officials. The run-off pitting the former Northern Alliance leader against ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani on June 14 has fallen into deadlock over Abdullah’s decision to drop out last week. The impasse has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Abdullah’s base of support is with the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, while Ghani is Pashtun, the largest group. It also comes at a dangerous time, with the Taliban insurgency still raging and most NATO-led forces preparing to leave the country by the end of the year. Abdullah joined protesters aboard a small truck, driving alongside the crowd and waving a flag.
Afghanistan’s election crisis has twisted through each of the past 10 days, as the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has wielded boycott and brinkmanship in his quest to expose what he calls industrial-scale fraud against him. On Monday, he won his first major concession, when one of the country’s top election officials resigned after repeated accusations by Mr. Abdullah that he was at the heart of a conspiracy to rig the presidential runoff. The official, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, said in an emotional news conference here that he was stepping down “for the sake of the country and for national unity.” But he maintained that he was innocent. And he criticized Mr. Abdullah’s release of audio recordings that the candidate has offered as evidence that Mr. Amarkhil was directing widespread ballot-box stuffing, saying the tapes had been faked. The tapes, whose authenticity could not be verified, are a compendium of conversations between a man said to be Mr. Amarkhil and an array of subordinates, as well as people said to be campaign staff members for the other presidential candidate, Ashraf Ghani.
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign stepped up pressure on Afghanistan’s chief election officer on Sunday, releasing phone recordings that allegedly show the officer orchestrated the rigging of the nation’s election. Mr. Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has demanded that the chief election officer, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil be fired, accusing him and his Independent Election Commission of perpetrating “industrial-scale” fraud in favor of the rival contender, Ashraf Ghani, in the June 14 runoff election. Mr. Amarkhil, shown a transcript of the recordings before the Abdullah campaign released them, said he doesn’t recall having had such a conversation. “I would never talk like that,” he said in an interview.
Afghanistan’s presidential election was cast into crisis on Wednesday as the candidate Abdullah Abdullah announced a boycott of the electoral process, accusing his opponent and President Hamid Karzai of engineering huge fraud in the runoff vote on Saturday. Rejecting the process laid out under Afghan electoral law, he called on the election commission to halt all vote-counting and immediately investigate any inflated ballot totals — steps that are designed to come after partial vote results are announced in the next few weeks. Mr. Abdullah also withdrew his election observers from the vote-counting and suspended his cooperation with the Independent Election Commission, which his campaign accuses of bias. If Mr. Abdullah were to reject the official results of the vote, it would cast into doubt an election that Western and Afghan officials alike have considered critical to the legacy of the long Western war in Afghanistan. The election’s legitimacy has been directly tied to the country’s stability, and to continued international aid now that Western troops are leaving.
Afghan election authorities on Monday strongly denied top officials were guilty of fraud after front-running presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah unleashed allegations that could threaten a smooth transition of power. Abdullah s fraud claims put him in direct conflict with the Independent Election Commission (IEC), raising fears of political instability as the bulk of US-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Abdullah demanded the sacking of Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, head of the IEC secretariat, over Amarkhail s alleged attempt to remove unused ballots from the IEC headquarters in Kabul on polling day. He also said the IEC s turnout figure of seven million voters in Saturday s run-off election was probably false. But IEC chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani rejected the accusations against Amarkhail, and said the turnout figure was an early estimate that might be adjusted.
Less than 48 hours after a runoff election to choose the next president of Afghanistan, the first signs of a looming political crisis emerged on Monday, with the campaign of Abdullah Abdullah claiming there had been widespread ballot stuffing and suggesting he was being set up for a defeat he would not accept. A senior campaign official for Mr. Abdullah, who won the most votes in the election’s first round, said the candidate believes President Hamid Karzai and a coterie of advisers around him orchestrated the fraud. The aim, in the estimation of the Abdullah campaign, was either to install Ashraf Ghani, the other candidate for president, or to see Mr. Karzai use a postelection crisis as an excuse to extend his own term in office.
Afghanistan: Abdullah Abdullah Campaign Claims Inflated Turnout in Rival’s Power Base | Wall Street Journal
Indications of vote fraud during Afghanistan’s presidential election Monday threatened to ignite a political crisis and endanger the first democratic transition in the nation’s history. The nation’s election commission had said that more than seven million people voted in Saturday’s runoff—well above the 6.6 million who took part in the election’s first round in April—but that figure has come under scrutiny. Candidate Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, called the turnout claim “uncorroborated,” and on Monday members of Mr. Abdullah’s campaign team said that between one million and two million ballots were fraudulent, stuffed for his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani. Naeem Ayubzada, head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent group that dispatched some 8,000 observers Saturday, also disputed the official figure. He estimated 5 million voters as a more realistic turnout number.
Afghanistan: Voters brave Taliban threats to choose new leader in presidential runoff | Associated Press
Afghans braved threats of violence and searing heat Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff that likely will mark the country’s first peaceful transfer of authority, an important step toward democracy as foreign combat troops leave. The new leader will be challenged with trying to improve ties with the West and combatting corruption while facing a powerful Taliban insurgency and declining international aid. Despite a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks that Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said killed 46 people, the voting was largely peaceful. Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said initial estimates show that more than 7 million Afghans voted, which would be equivalent to the first round on April 5. That would be a turnout of about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 12 million eligible voters. Abdullah Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45 percent of the vote in the first round, faced Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official and finance minister. Neither garnered the majority needed to win outright, but previous candidates and their supporters have since offered endorsements to each, making the final outcome unpredictable.
Afghans head to the polls Saturday for a second-round election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, with the threat of Taliban attacks and fraud looming over the country’s first democratic transfer of power. April’s first-round vote was hailed a success as turnout topped 50 percent and Islamist militants failed to launch any high-profile attacks on polling day. But Saturday presents another major challenge in the prolonged election process, which began with campaigning in early February and will end when the final result is announced on July 22.
As Afghans prepare to vote in the presidential run-off, the senior-most United Nation official in the country has called on key stakeholders to improve the electoral process, and reminded policymakers that Afghan men, women and children should be meaningfully involved in the peace efforts and future direction of their country. “The run-off vote is an unprecedented event for Afghanistan’s democracy,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Jan Kubis.
The frontrunner in Afghanistan’s presidential election has narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Kabul after suicide bombers attacked his armoured car, killing three of his bodyguards and three bystanders. Two bombs hit the convoy of Abdullah Abdullah as he was driven through the city from one campaign event to another on Friday. They ripped apart the bullet-proof four-wheel drive, blew the glass out of nearby buildings and left the ground strewn with blood and twisted metal, but Abdullah emerged apparently unscathed.
The front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, escaped unhurt in two explosions in the capital Friday, just over a week ahead of a runoff vote that Taliban insurgents have vowed to derail. At least seven people — three of Abdullah’s bodyguards and four pedestrians — were killed by two suicide car bombers, police and a spokesman for Abdullah said. The blasts targeted a convoy of armored vehicles carrying Abdullah, his two deputies and one of his key allies in the western part of the city, they sai
Afghanistan’s election commission said on Wednesday it had fired more than 3,000 staff accused of fraud in the first round of the country’s presidential election, as it sought to quell fears that it might fail to deliver a legitimate outcome. Afghans voted on April 5 in the first round of the election to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term after more than a decade in power. The winner will take charge at a crucial time, with most foreign troops due to withdraw by the end of the year, the Taliban insurgency still raging and a pact with Washington permitting some U.S. forces to stay hanging in the balance.
Both candidates vying to be the next president of Afghanistan are convinced they will win and that only cheating can stop them — setting the stage for a fraught election when campaigning starts Thursday. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are locked in a head-to-head battle that could test Afghan stability as the country chooses its first new leader since the tumultuous days after the Taliban regime fell in 2001. As the drawn-out election process builds to a climax, US-led combat troops are closing bases and withdrawing rapidly, with all remaining 51,000 NATO soldiers due to exit this year after more than a decade fighting the Taliban. The first-round election on April 5 was hailed a success by Afghan officials and foreign allies after the insurgents failed to launch a major attack, and fraud — though widespread — was deemed not to have affected the outcome.
The final result of the presidential election held in Afghanistan over a month ago will be announced on Thursday, a day later than planned because of a high number of voter complaints, the election authorities said. Preliminary results late last month indicated no candidate would emerge with an absolute majority. If final results confirm the initial count, a run-off will be held between the two leading contenders, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. The final result would be announced on Thursday at 11 am (0630 GMT), IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. Failure of the complaints commission to submit its final report on time was the reason for the delay. A spokesman for the commission said this was because it had been flooded with an unexpectedly high number of complaints, including over 900 classed serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote. “That’s why it took longer,” said Nader Mohseni said.
The two top vote-getters in Afghanistan’s presidential election alleged widespread fraud and other irregularities in the April 5 vote, with the leading contender saying he could still emerge as victor without a runoff once all the complaints are adjudicated. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s main rival in the 2009 election, is leading with 44.9% of the vote, according to preliminary results released by the Independent Election Commission on Saturday. His nearest opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, received 31.5%. If these preliminary results hold and Mr. Abdullah doesn’t manage to cross the 50% mark once all the fraud allegations are examined, a runoff between the two men is expected to be held in early June. Mr. Abdullah rejected that prospect, and said on Sunday he believes he will emerge with an absolute majority if his complaints are properly addressed. “Nobody can claim that the election has gone or will go to the second round,” he said. “Our assessment and our documents clearly show a victory for our team.”
Three weeks after Afghanistan’s presidential election, the tortuous counting process is over. And the voters appear all set to finish the job—by going back to the polls. As was widely expected, none of the eight candidates managed to secure more than 50% of the vote. A run-off election will be used to pick a winner. The top two place-getters will be returning to the colourful and vibrant hustings. Abdullah Abdullah, the polished, cravat-wearing former foreign minister (pictured to the right, with an ordinary necktie), who finished second in the deeply flawed presidential election of 2009, has emerged as the clear front-runner. He secured 44.9% of the vote when the Afghanistan’s election watchdog announced the full preliminary results on Saturday April 26th. His closest rival is Ashraf Ghani (pictured left), an urbane academic and former official with the World Bank, who won 31.5%. Zalmai Rassoul, who was regarded as being the preferred choice of outgoing president Hamid Karzai—who was himself forbidden from standing for a third, five-year term by the constitution—was the only other candidate to finish with a total in the double digits (11.5%).
The Afghan presidential race is set for a June runoff between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, according to official results released Saturday. The preliminary tally showed Abdullah winning nearly 45% of the 6.9 million votes cast, and Ghani 31.5%. Election officials will examine hundreds of reports of voting irregularities before issuing final results on May 14, but the allegations didn’t appear widespread enough to change the results substantially — or to give Abdullah the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff. The two men, both polished technocrats well known to the international community, had been regarded as the favorites in the April 5 election. Both have pledged to sign a security agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, a strategic priority for the Obama administration.
Afghanistan: Election commission delays release of full results to allow recounts, audits | Associated Press
Afghanistan’s election commission delayed a planned release of full results from the April 5 presidential election to allow for recounts and audits, officials said Wednesday, a development that adds to the confusion surrounding the balloting to replace President Hamid Karzai. The results were expected on Thursday, but Independent Election Commission director Ziaulhaq Amarkhil said in a statement they would be postponed until at least Saturday to ensure they are not tainted by fraud. “The commission is responsible to the Afghan electorate,” said Amarkhil. The winner will replace Karzai, who is ineligible for a third term, and oversee a tumultuous period as the U.S. and NATO are expected to withdraw most of their troops from the country by the end of this year, leaving Afghan forces to fight the fierce Taliban insurgency on their own.
Afghanistan: Reports of Fraud and Violence Temper Joy Over Election in Chaotic Afghan District | New York Times
The turbulent district of Andar has been caught in one kind of crossfire or another for years: between American forces and insurgent leaders, between warring militant factions, between those hostile to the national government and those courting it. Over the past year, it has become clearly divided. One side is controlled by the government, which found a foothold here after an anti-Taliban uprising began in 2012; the other is still ruled by the Taliban, which operates openly. On Election Day, April 5, votes were cast in high numbers throughout Andar. Government officials hailed the news as a triumph for Afghan democracy in a place where only three valid votes were recorded across the whole district in the 2010 parliamentary elections. To a degree, that judgment was justified. Many residents in this remote corner of Ghazni Province said they felt marginalized in the last election, and they were determined to see their votes count this time, despite the risks.
Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah’s lead in the Afghan presidential race has widened, the latest official tally of votes released on Sunday showed, although half of the votes have yet to be counted. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50 percent of the vote out of the total 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4 percent, followed by ex-world bank official Ashraf Ghani with 33.2 percent of the votes it said were not fraudulent. “The lead we were expecting, it didn’t come as a surprise, but perhaps we were expecting a bigger lead,” Abdullah told Reuters in an interview at his home in Kabul. “We are still hoping the elections will be completed in the first round.”
On April 5, 2014, the Afghan nation voted to elect what is supposed to be the country’s first post-ISAF and post-Karzai government. This was the third time that presidential and provincial council elections were held in the country since the overthrow of the Taliban regime over a decade ago. The entire election process, however, is supposed to conclude with the third round of parliamentary elections which should be due sometime next year. This basically means that the April elections mark the beginning of a long-drawn complex process extending over a year. The whole exercise in due course will test the strength and credibility of the Afghan institutions and the resolve of the Afghan people to take the political process to its logical conclusion. It is not merely about change in leadership; it is about ushering the country into a ‘decade of transformation’ (2015-24) by further institutionalising a relatively inclusive political culture which could cater to the rising scepticism as well as aspirations among the Afghan people. It is about building a political order which is in tune with the changing socio-political realities, mindful of the several challenges ahead, the most important being, how to keep the international community engaged. Like the incumbent president, the next leadership in Kabul too will have to confront similar challenges: managing divergent perceptions and factional interests, competing patronage networks and parallel power structures at the sub-national level, seemingly irreconcilable ideological positions of the Pakistan-sponsored Haqqani-Taliban network and, most critically, sustaining the current constitutional framework to the extent possible.
With 10 percent of votes counted in the April 5 election, Abdullah leads with 42 percent, compared with 38 percent for Ghani, according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan in Kabul. A runoff will take place between the two top candidates if no single candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote. “The results will change,” Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, the election commission chairman, told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “It is possible that one candidate is the front-runner in today’s press conference, and there will be another front-runner in the next press conference.” The Afghan government said voter turnout doubled from the previous presidential election in a show of defiance against Taliban insurgents who have sought to disrupt the poll. The vote paves the way for the first democratic transfer of power since the U.S. ousted the group in 2001.
It is not true to say that Afghanistan lacks good-news stories. It’s just that they are not the kind to generate headlines: 8m children at school, two-fifths of them girls, compared with 1m when the Taliban were in power; a tenfold increase in those Afghans with access to basic health care; some 20m who own mobile phones; and proliferating television channels, radio stations and newspapers. By contrast, the good-news story of the presidential election on April 5th was generating both headlines and surprise—and that is even before a result has been announced. The expectation was for another flawed election like the one in 2009. Jeremiahs predicted that a combination of fraud, intimidation and violence would produce only a tainted, illegitimate government. That would give weary donors of international aid all the excuse they needed to stop signing the cheques keeping the country afloat. The only real winners would be the Taliban. Yet in this election Afghans of all kinds rejected that account of their country. Despite the threat of Taliban reprisals (and rotten weather), over 7m Afghans, about 60% of those eligible, appear to have voted, half as many again as in 2009. Around 35% of those who cast a ballot were women. Burka-clad voters raising an ink-stained finger as they left the polling booths became a symbol of defiance.
The Taliban launched a series of attacks, focused mainly on the capital Kabul, just a few days ahead of Afghanistan’s landmark April 5 presidential poll. The militant group had threatened to attack polling stations during the vote and warned people against casting their ballots. But activists and ordinary Afghans reacted by taking to the Internet and launching a massive social media campaign where they expressed their determination to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has been ever since the fall of the Taliban 13 years ago. Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Pictures and slogans saying “Yes, I will Vote!” (main picture) circulated among thousands of Afghan social media users. The campaign paid off on April 5 when millions of Afghans took to polling stations to cast their votes despite the terror threats. The turnout was so high that many polling stations across the country ran out of ballot papers and Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) had to extend voting by an hour. The electoral body estimates that approximately 58 percent – seven out of 12 million eligible voters cast their ballots on Election Day.
Six women were arguing with the security guards of Zarghuna High School in central Kabul to let them enter the compound for voting. The guards argued that it was already 5 p.m. and the women could not be let in as voting had closed. Still, the women insisted. The head of security came in and he too tried to drive in the point that the p.m. deadline had passed but the women contended that a few minutes here and there did not make much of a difference and if they missed the chance this time they would have a long wait ahead of them to vote, which they said they did not want to do. Seeing their determination, the chief relented and allowed them to enter the school and they were ushered into the last classroom where the ballot box was just about to be sealed. The women voted and left the school flashing their inked fingers. This was the mood in Afghanistan on Saturday when the country voted for in its first democratic transition of government; the country had never seen this kind of zeal to vote. According to initial estimates given by the Independent Election Commission, 7 out of twelve million registered voters cast their vote on April 5th, meaning close to 60 percent of eligible voters came out to exercise their democratic rights. The turnout is double what it was in the 2009 elections. It was higher than the first elections in 2004 as well.
Afghanistan has begun tallying votes from the weekend’s historic presidential elections, a process that will take weeks to complete, but rough early counts suggest that the country is heading for a second-round showdown between two former ministers. Voters defied Taliban intimidation, turning out in unexpectedly high numbers on Saturday to choose a successor to Hamid Karzai, who has ruled for 12 years and is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. The Taliban mounted nearly 700 attacks nationwide, said General Zahir Azimy, spokesman for the defence ministry, but fears of a bloody, dramatic attack in the capital or another major city during the election proved unfounded. The day ended with an outpouring of support for the 350,000 police and soldiers on duty around the country, who for the first time secured an election without foreign support.