New strains have emerged in Afghanistan’s delicate political transition, just a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kabul for the second time in a month to defuse a political crisis concerning who will take over from President Hamid Karzai. As the vote audit for a disputed election remains painfully slow and a crucial deadline looms, fresh suggestions of political fraud have emerged along with provocative comments from a key player. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani are vying to succeed Mr. Karzai, who must step down after more than a decade in power. But the failure of a June 14 runoff to produce a clear winner led to a political standoff that brought the country close to civil war.
While Mr. Abdullah won the most votes in a first round in April, he didn’t pass a 50% threshold to win outright. After the country’s election commission announced Mr. Ghani the preliminary winner in the second round, Mr. Abdullah threatened to form a parallel government, saying there had been significant ballot-stuffing on behalf of his rival.
Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of northern Balkh province, was at the center of the deepening crisis: In early July, he declared he would only recognize an Abdullah-led government, raising fears of secession.
In an interview Thursday, Gov. Atta remained defiant. He warned that Mr. Abdullah’s supporters would take to the streets if Mr. Ghani was declared winner. A Ghani victory, he added, would be seen as a foreign imposition. “John Kerry visited Afghanistan twice,” he said. “We have accepted the agreement to have a national unity government, and the results should be transparent. We support these two points but we do not see honesty in our counterpart. It’s clear that the world should not impose anything on us.”
Full Article: Afghan Election Rivals Hit New Snags – WSJ.