On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s electoral commission announced that it would likely delay the preliminary result of last month’s presidential runoff until the weekend at the earliest. The result was originally scheduled to be made public on Wednesday. “The announcement of preliminary results is likely to be delayed until Saturday,” election commissioner Sharifa Zurmati said. “Around 2,000 polling centers are to be recounted because of alleged fraud.” In June, Afghans defied Taliban violence to vote in a presidential runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official Ashraf Ghani. Ballots were cast at 6,000 polling stations across the country. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) reported that 99.7 percent of the ballots had been logged into its database. IEC chief Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail resigned his post last week after Abdullah’s campaign released a phone conversation in which Amarkhail allegedly called for ballot boxes to be stuffed. Amarkhail claimed the recording was fake but said he was stepping down so that Abdullah would end his boycott of the vote.
Abdullah has accused Ghani, the election commission and incumbent President Hamid Karzai of stuffing ballot boxes. The former foreign minister and anti-Taliban resistance fighter made similar allegations in the 2009 presidential election, in which Karzai won a second term.
“The commission has lost its legitimacy for us, and the recount of 2,000 polling centers will not change anything for us,” said Jawed Faisal, a spokesman for Abdullah’s campaign.
Meanwhile, Ghani claims that the election was free and fair, calling on the commission to stick with its original timeline for the result. However, on Tuesday, his campaign announced that it would accept a delay. “If this delay is for the sake of transparency, then we accept it, though it runs against the election law,” campaign spokeswoman Azita Rafat told the AFP news agency.