Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has preemptively rejected the results of last month’s election, set to be officially released Monday, saying the country’s electoral commission was involved in widespread fraud that tarnished the legitimacy of the runoff vote. “Unless the clean votes are separated from those that are fraudulent, we will not accept the election results,” Abdullah said in a televised news conference Sunday night. “We will refer to the people” on how to respond to Monday’s announcement, he said. The stakes are high for a peaceful transfer of power, which would mark the first since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The fragile government here continues to battle a nationwide Taliban insurgency as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year.
Abdullah’s statement comes amid heightened concerns that the election outcome could plunge Afghanistan into further violence, possibly along ethnic lines. Abdullah, a former foreign minister who fought against Soviet forces, is of Tajik and Pashtun ethnicity. But he has been more associated with his mother’s Tajik heritage, and Tajik communities have shored up support for his candidacy. His rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, is a Pashtun who commands widespread support among the Pashtun populations in the country’s southern and eastern regions.