Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission publicly confirmed the official results of the disputed 2014 election on Wednesday, more than a year and a half after the vote that elevated former finance minister Ashraf Ghani to the presidency. The 2014 election, touted as the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan, descended to the brink of chaos as Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, traded accusations of fraud. According to the official numbers, Ghani won a runoff election in June 2014 with 55.27 percent of the vote to Abdullah’s 44.73 percent. It was at the request of both candidates, who now share power as part of a U.S.-brokered unity government, that the election commission delayed the release of the official numbers, said the commission’s chief, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.
The Afghan election commission said Monday that it had set an Oct. 15 date for long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections. But the announcement immediately raised fears of new political deadlock after the country’s power-sharing government denounced the plan as illegitimate. In announcing the date, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, evidently did not coordinate with the government. And a spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive, criticized the scheduling because the electoral reform he had demanded had not gone through. “The current election commission has no legitimacy because it was their weak management of the previous election that brought us on the brink of chaos,” said Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Mr. Abdullah. “Reforming the election process is a precondition to any election, and a part of the larger reform is the changing of current commission officials.”
For about five short minutes in June, everyone sitting around my lunch table in Kabul thought the Afghan government had shut down Facebook. Attempts to load news feeds were met with an abrupt, uninformative “network error” message, so, naturally, two of us jumped on Twitter to break the news. The others, also expatriates, but less swept up in the politics of the moment, continued eating, though no doubt they were somewhat dismayed at the prospect of their window to life back home being shuttered. It was less than a week after millions of Afghans had commuted to polls around the country to vote in a runoff election, the second round in 2014’s historic, if protracted, presidential race. Heralded as the country’s first democratic transition of power, the election process had taken an ugly turn. And social media followed suit. When former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah accused election officials and then-President Hamid Karzai of coordinating ballot stuffing in favor of his opponent, former economic minister Ashraf Ghani, Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with progressively violent and inciteful rhetoric from both sides. Unsurprisingly, the factions largely split along ethnic lines — Pashtuns versus Tajiks — the same antagonists of Afghanistan’s four-year civil war in the 1990s.
Afghanistan has been held hostage by political stalemate for months. On September 21st it was finally broken, when the country’s two feuding presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing agreement. Though the ceremony, at the Arg, the presidential palace in the capital Kabul, was brief and low-key, the deal will radically—and perhaps wisely—change the country’s political framework. Neither man spoke and neither looked quite at ease. But the agreement will at least allow the new government to get on with the massive task of winning the confidence of a country that has been waiting for the deadlock to end. The four-page document, signed in the presence of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and later by witnesses James Cunningham, the American ambassador, and Jan Kubis, the United Nations’ senior Afghanistan representative (both of whom were banned from the palace ceremony by Mr Karzai), divests the president of his vast powers.
Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has been officially declared the new president of Afghanistan, after three months of political deadlock was resolved through a new, untested power-sharing arrangement with his arch rival. Ghani signed the agreement with Abdullah Abdullah, his adversary in presidential elections in June that left the country suspended in acrimony, fraud allegations and political paralysis. Under the deal, Ghani will run the cabinet and be in charge of strategic functions, while Abdullah will be able to appoint a “chief executive” who will be in charge of daily duties. Neither man appeared overjoyed as they signed the deal. When the election results were finally declared, the ranking official did not use the words “winner” or “loser”, nor did he announce the final voting figures.
Afghan presidential rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday signed a power sharing deal to form a National Unity Government. The signing ceremony took place at the presidential palace in Kabul with outgoing President Hamid Karzai and Afghan elders as well as religious leaders present on the occasion. The two candidates shook hands and hugged each other after singing the long-awaited political deal. Karzai then briefly addressed the gathering and congratulated both Ghani and Abdullah on reaching the power sharing arrangement.
Afghanistan’s election commission announced on Sunday it has completed the audit that will determine the country’s next president. The contested presidential election has seen both presidential hopefuls, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, accusing each other of industrial-scale fraud, fomenting revolt, and endorsing violence. As of Monday, the ballots have been sent to the electoral complaints commission, who will grant Ghani and Abdullah 24 hours to log any complaints they may have. The complaints commission will then have 48 hours to address their complaints and submit the final result to the electoral commission for review. The electoral commission is expected to announce the final results by the end of the week. If similar announcements in the past are any guide, however, this will likely be delayed. The first round of votes on 5 April was noticeable for its relative absence of violence, and the country underwent a brief spell of optimism. The second round of election on 14 June was a departure from this original feeling of euphoria, and was marred by claims and counter claims of fraud between the two candidates.
The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah once more brought Afghanistan’s troubled electoral process to the brink on Monday, insisting that he had won the disputed vote and vowing to reject any government formed on the basis of it. An audit of 100 percent of the ballots cast in the June runoff election is expected to conclude this week, and nearly all observers expect Mr. Abdullah’s opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to be declared the winner. Mr. Abdullah’s supporters have been suggesting that he form a parallel government, which Western diplomats have worried could lead to disorder or even civil war. But Mr. Abdullah made no mention of a parallel government in a speech to his top officials, running mates and supporters, or at a brief news conference afterward, and did not ask his supporters to take to the streets to protest the results.
Afghanistan faces its most serious crisis in a decade. This time, however, it is not caused by an emboldened Taliban but by growing friction between the two contenders for president. Only a determined effort by the United States and other NATO allies can prevent an escalation into violence. Many Westerners and Afghans embraced this year’s presidential election as an opportunity to move on from President Hamid Karzai, whose relationship with Western leaders dramatically deteriorated in recent years. But the election results have been contentious. The first round of voting was in April. No candidate secured 50% of the vote, though former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah led with 45%. The two candidates with the largest shares, Mr. Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, went to a run-off on June 14. The preliminary results showed Mr. Ghani ahead with roughly 56% of the vote, yet allegations of fraud mounted.
Having spent several weeks auditing ballots in Afghanistan’s fraud-plagued presidential vote, election officials there are expected to declare a winner within days. If the two candidates vying for the post fail to reach a power-sharing deal beforehand, the announcement could easily kick off a wave of unrest that would all but guarantee a catastrophic wind-down to America’s longest war. The window of opportunity to strike a compromise is narrowing dangerously. Without a new government in place, the Obama administration may well pull back on plans to keep a military contingent in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and without that force, the international community will cease bankrolling the impoverished nation. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, not without reason, is fighting the outcome of an election in which his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, is widely expected to be declared the winner. Western officials say that the audit of millions of ballots cast on June 14 has made clear that the scope and sophistication of fraud was staggering even for Afghan standards.
The campaign team of Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for the presidency of Afghanistan, has issued a 24-hour notice to the United Nations and international observers that if changes are not made to processes in the ongoing audit of all 8 million votes cast in the second round of the election, they will back out of the election process entirely. “We will give one day to the international community to review and assure that the vote auditing and the political negotiations are moving forward properly. … If our demands are not met and the auditing not conducted legitimately and the political talks without honesty, then we will withdraw from both processes,” said Abdullah spokesman Syed Fazel Sancharaki. nThe Monday afternoon warning came a week after the team of Reform and Partnership, as Abdullah’s campaign refers to itself, backed out of the audit claiming their concerns about widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff were ignored by the United Nations.
It seems everyone wants the Afghan presidential election to be over and done with. Except, maybe, for the two contenders. In the latest attempt to derail an audit of the votes, which was set in motion six weeks ago, Abdullah Abdullah (pictured above) declared on August 27th that he was leaving the process—less than a week before the next president is supposed to be inaugurated. Mr Abdullah, who claims his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, rigged more than 1m votes, has accused auditors of keeping fraudulent ballots in the tally. Faulting the United Nations for not taking his concerns seriously, he said the criteria for invalidating votes are not thorough enough to weed out all the fraud. Wednesday morning, August 27th, no observers from his team were to be found at the headquarters of the Independent Election Commission when the day’s audit began. Consequently, Mr Ghani also withdrew his observers.
The full audit of the about 8 million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will continue “without the direct physical engagement” of the two candidates’ observers, the United Nations said Wednesday. The announcement came hours after Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who led April’s first-round vote but reportedly was losing in the initial count from the second round, ordered his team to stay away from the audit. Abdullah’s camp charged in a statement that the review was “built in a one-sided manner” favoring his rival, Ashraf Ghani. Muslim Saadat, a spokesman for the Abdullah team, said there remained “a few points to find solutions to” in the audit process, but that talks between the Abdullah and Ghani camps were ongoing. Nicholas Haysom, deputy special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan, announced that the audit would go on without observers from both camps. Haysom said one of the concerns raised by the Abdullah team would be given “serious consideration.” Neither he nor Saadat would elaborate on the unresolved issues. So far, ballots in 72 boxes have invalidated and another 697 boxes have been sent for recount.
Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election was rocked by more turmoil on Wednesday as both candidates vying to succeed Hamed Karzai pulled their observers out of a ballot audit meant to determine the winner of a June runoff. First, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, pulled his monitors from the audit to protest the process that his team claims is fraught with fraud. Then, the United Nations, which is helping supervise the U.S.-brokered audit, asked the other candidate, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, to also pull out his observers in the interest of fairness. The U.N. team said the audit then proceeded without both candidates’ teams. It was not immediately clear if the pullout meant the two candidates would reject the audit results — and thereby also the final result of the election. That could have dangerous repercussions in a country still struggling to overcome ethnic and religious divides and battling a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
Afghanistan: Invalidating fraud votes: Afghan election dispute enters crucial phase | The Express Tribune
Afghanistan’s 10-week election crisis entered a risky new stage on Monday when officials started invalidating fraudulent votes in a process likely to bring to a head the bitter dispute between the presidential candidates. The country has been in paralysis since the June 14 election to choose the successor to President Hamid Karzai, who will step down as US-led NATO troops prepare to end their 13-year war against Taliban insurgents. Karzai has insisted that the delayed inauguration ceremony must be held on September 2, imposing a tough deadline that has raised tensions between supporters of poll rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. The June vote was quickly mired in allegations of massive fraud, with Abdullah claiming that he had been denied victory after Ghani was declared ahead on preliminary results.
Scores of protesters have taken to the streets in the Afghan capital Kabul to call for the immediate release of the results of the disputed presidential runoff vote, Press TV reports. On Thursday, more than a hundred civil society activists chanted slogans and expressed their outrage over what they described as the violation of the Afghan constitution. The demonstrators also emphasized that the delay in announcing the results of the June vote is against the interests of Afghanistan. “Some elements do not think about our country and people, but rather think only about their own interests. It is nothing but a pre-planned political game against the nation,” said Mohammad Jawadi, a civil society activist.
A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon. Though it is unusual to telegraph plans for what could amount to a coup — though no one is calling it that — the officials all stressed that they hoped the mere threat of forming an interim government would persuade the country’s rival presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, to make the compromises needed to end the crisis. After weeks of quietly discussing the prospect of imposing a temporary government, officials within the Karzai government said the best way out of a crisis that had emboldened the Taliban, weakened an already struggling economy and left many here deeply pessimistic about the country’s democratic future, might well be some form of interim government, most likely run by a committee.
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.
A knife fight late Tuesday among several auditors at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) still inspecting the results of the presidential elections held in mid-June could be the stab in the back for what has been a painful election process. The vote audit process was resumed following a three-hour delay on Wednesday, a commission official said. Two months after Afghans voted in a second runoff for election of the country’s president, ballots are being recounted amid growing questions on who is really arbitrating the process. The four corrugated iron barracks east of Kabul that constitute the centre of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan in which the 22,828 ballot boxes are piled up, have become the Afghan insurgency´s main target. In the June 14 runoff, presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai won 56.44 percent of the votes, while his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, received 43.56 percent, despite having been the most voted candidate in the first runoff on April 5.
As the recounting of votes cast in June 14 Afghan presidential runoff is continuing, President Hamid Karzai has said that this militancy-plagued country should have new president and new government by the end of August. Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, spokesman for Afghan election commission Noor Mohammad Noor said that 45 percent of the votes cast in the second round of presidential election held on June 14 had been completed. “So far 10,231 ballot boxes or 45 percent of the whole ballot boxes have been recounted,” Noor said at a press conference here. The total number of ballot boxes used in Afghan presidential runoff is 22,828, he said, adding the recounting process is going on and the election commission would do its best to complete the auditing and recounting process of the votes in its earliest.
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.
Afghanistan: Ashraf Ghani rejects sharing power if he wins Afghan presidential recount | The Washington Post
Ashraf Ghani, one of two candidates competing to become Afghanistan’s president, said Tuesday that the deadline to finish a vote recount is slipping and that a U.S.-brokered agreement for the rivals to form a joint government afterward does not mean the winner will fully share power with the loser. Speaking to foreign journalists at his fortified compound in the capital, Ghani appeared to be trying to tamp down a surge of discontent among his supporters and allies, many of whom are reportedly upset that he agreed under U.S. pressure to a full recount of ballots from the troubled presidential runoff in June and the formation of a “unity” government with his rival.
Eleven months into Afghanistan’s marathon presidential vote, strains are being felt across government institutions. The two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, made progress by publicly agreeing to respect the results of the audit, but it will take some time still for observers to go through all 8.1 million votes. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has ground to a halt, and stasis is most keenly felt in government bureaucracies, where senior officials have expressed concern over the potentially damaging effects of a prolonged stalemate. Hakim Mujahed, the deputy chairman of the high peace council, a government body responsible for negotiations with the Taliban, said all meaningful work had stopped in early spring, during the first round of the elections. Now he whiles away his hours crossing off the administrative chores from his to-do list.
It starts by cutting the bright green seal on the lid of the ballot box, but the tedious task of auditing just one box among five hangars’ worth in Afghanistan’s contested presidential election often ends only hours later. The pace of counting continues to lag amid challenges by both campaigns two days after rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah stood with Secretary of State John Kerry and pledged to accept the results of an election audit they vowed would end before NATO leaders meet next month to discuss their future commitments in Afghanistan. Once the seals are cut, the box is opened and some quick math done to match the number of ballots with a tally sheet inside. Things slow from there. While an auditor form the Afghan Independent Election Commission flips through several bundles of ballots, observers from the rival campaigns lean in, peering at check marks and scribbles to pull aside the ballots they consider suspicious.
Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit here on Thursday to press Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates to form a government of national unity and rescue the political agreement he negotiated almost four weeks ago. The Obama administration is urging Afghan politicians to accept the result of an internationally monitored audit so a new president can be inaugurated before NATO nations hold a summit meeting in Wales in early September. “We would like to see the president inaugurated and arriving at NATO as part of a government of national unity,” said a senior State Department official who is traveling with Mr. Kerry.
Afghanistan’s ongoing presidential election, if successful, will mark the first transfer of power via an election in that country’s history. Election does not necessarily imply democracy. Afghanistan’s previous two presidential elections, both won by incumbent Hamid Karzai, saw ubiquitous election fraud and there are legitimate questions about how representative one leader or political party can be in a country so fraught with sectarian and tribal divisions. Nowhere are these divisions more apparent than in the central challenge of selling the whole process of democracy to the Afghan people. Afghanistan’s divisions are manifested partly in the readiness of many Afghans to pursue other avenues when the State looks less than functional, which is its usual condition. Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah who withdrew from the 2009 election to protest Karzai’s election fraud has threatened to create a “parallel state,” by force if necessary, if the currently disputed outcome cannot be resolved. This willingness on Abdullah’s part is suggestive of many things, most important of which may be a lack of confidence that the central government can effectively represent more than one of Afghanistan’s many groups at a time. Abdullah nominally represents Tajik interests—the northern part of the country—despite his own mixed ancestry. Ashraf Ghani, the other candidate, has more widespread support among Pashtuns. The challenge all parties face is in trying to make this election more than a contest to see which ethnic group has more voters.
Afghanistan’s election audit needs to be fast and decisive to avert the threat of spiralling instability as US troops pull out, but attempts to speed up the process are bogged down in squabbles and confusion. Election officials are sorting through more than eight million votes in front of domestic observers, international monitors and representatives from the two presidential candidates. Every individual vote is physically examined and, if either campaign team complains, it is put to one side for further assessment. In a sweltering warehouse in Kabul on Monday, a UN official peered at a row of disputed ballot papers from the eastern province of Paktika — a hotbed of alleged fraud on polling day more than seven weeks ago. Both campaign teams had alleged that some papers showed suspiciously similar tick marks for their opponent, leading to a noisy four-hour dispute over one single ballot box. “We have a pattern here,” the adjudicating UN official said, pointing at some ticks. “But it is only three in a row, so it is ok. Now let’s look at the other side’s complaints.”
A massive operation to check eight million votes in Afghanistan’s disputed elections has resumed in Kabul. Vote-checking restarted on Sunday after a holiday break without the involvement of one of the candidates, but Abdullah Abdullah later rejoined the process. Mr Abdullah had claimed that “widespread fraud” denied him victory over his rival Ashraf Ghani. The vote will see power transferred from Hamid Karzai, the only president since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Around 23,000 ballot boxes from 34 provinces will be brought to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) headquarters in Kabul. … The boxes have been stored in provincial capitals around Afghanistan since a second round of polling on 14 June.
Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favour of his rival. Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, released an audio recording they said was Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race. Khalili’s and Ghani’s staff dismissed the recording as a fake. Allegations of mass fraud have overshadowed the outcome of the vote, which was meant to be the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history and came before the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of this year. The eight million votes cast in the second round of the election, held in June, are currently being audited under U.N. supervision, according to a deal brokered by the United States.
The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said today, but disputes still hang over the process. A US-brokered agreement to audit all ballots defused a crisis this month, but the process has stalled three times since and the candidates have yet to agree on how to disqualify votes.