U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to try to broker an election-audit deal between presidential candidates amid widespread allegations of voting fraud and as a deepening political crisis threatens to fragment the country along ethnic and regional lines. On Monday, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced preliminary results following a June 14 presidential runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Ghani emerged as the apparent winner, with 56.4% of the vote, but Mr. Abdullah rejected the preliminary results, charging widespread fraud, and declared himself the victor. Followers of Mr. Abdullah have called for him to set up a “parallel government,” raising fears of upending the country’s democratic transition and a return to civil war.
President Barack Obama has urged Mr. Abdullah to wait for an investigation of ballot-stuffing allegations, and both candidates await Mr. Kerry’s arrival in Kabul to help break the impasse.
“We are working very closely with all the stakeholders in Afghanistan, with enormous concern, obviously, for the restoration of credibility through the process,” Mr. Kerry said Thursday in Beijing.
It is unclear exactly how the Obama administration plans to broker a compromise. Mr. Kerry said he has contacted both candidates several times, encouraging them “not to raise expectations for their supporters, [and] to publicly demonstrate respect for the audit process.” Mr. Kerry said the election crisis “is a critical moment for the transition” and that resolving it is essential for “future governments of the country.”