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.
“Nobody can challenge the election process. My demand to Dr Abdullah is to return to the process.”
The United Nations (UN) has also appealed for Abdullah to re-join the election process, which, if completed, will be Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.
The UN hosted talks between Abdullah and the IEC on Monday, but the outcome of the meeting was unclear.
Abdullah went into the second-round run-off election widely seen as the favourite to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who came to power after the Taliban regime was ousted by a US-led offensive in 2001.
But reports of the early vote count put Ghani well ahead – provoking outrage from Abdullah, and fuelling fears of instability if rival supporters take to the streets as NATO combat troops withdraw this year.