Thousands of angry protesters marched on the Afghan president’s palace on Friday in support of candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations that mass fraud had been committed during the presidential election by organizers and state officials. The run-off pitting the former Northern Alliance leader against ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani on June 14 has fallen into deadlock over Abdullah’s decision to drop out last week. The impasse has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Abdullah’s base of support is with the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, while Ghani is Pashtun, the largest group. It also comes at a dangerous time, with the Taliban insurgency still raging and most NATO-led forces preparing to leave the country by the end of the year. Abdullah joined protesters aboard a small truck, driving alongside the crowd and waving a flag.
“Our beloved president is Abdullah Abdullah,” shouted supporters, along with additional cries blaming the incumbent, President Hamid Karzai, for the political stand-off. Karzai was constitutionally barred from running for third time.
Abdullah has accused Karzai, provincial governors and police of complicity in efforts to rig the election.
Around 15,000 people joined the protest, according to police and Reuters witnesses. Some demonstrated their outrage by destroying posters of Karzai and shouting angry slogans against the president and the independent election commission.