With a crucial deadline soon approaching to inaugurate a new president and an election ballot recount in a critical stage, fears are growing that Afghanistan’s fragile transition process could collapse into violence. The quickening pace of a protracted election audit and a flurry of meetings between aides to the two rival candidates this week have raised faint hopes that the country may have a new leader in office within the next two weeks, just in time to attend a NATO summit crucial to future foreign aid for Afghanistan. But Afghan and international observers here warn that the process could easily fall apart, with disputes persisting over the fairness of the ballot recount and the two candidates unable to agree on a division of power after a winner is declared. Under U.S. pressure, they agreed to form a national unity government with a president as well as a chief executive, but they differ strongly on the details.
Despite pleas for patience from international officials, aides and allies of Abdullah Abdullah — the candidate who originally called for the ballot recount and charged massive fraud in a June runoff vote against rival Ashraf Ghani — continue to threaten that they will pull out of the process and call for civil unrest if Ghani wins a tainted recount and is named president.
One powerful governor backing Abdullah threatened in June to form a “parallel government” after Abdullah lost the runoff, and last week he again called for a “civil uprising” and takeover of the capital if Abdullah loses the vote recount. There have been separate news reports that some officials close to the Afghan security services may be planning to install their own “interim government” if the political process falls apart.