Afghan election authorities are due to unveil preliminary results of a presidential runoff after a five-day delay as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai rejected a coalition with his main rival, a move that may spark protests.
Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting in April, is boycotting the results after accusing the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan of stuffing ballot boxes in favor of Ghani, a former World Bank economist. His camp wants today’s announcement delayed again.
“We will not accept the preliminary results until clean votes are separated from fraudulent votes,” Abdullah told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “The international community wants a government based on legitimate votes.”
Failure to reach a deal threatens to trigger violence in one of Asia’s poorest countries and delay the signing of a pact that’s needed to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond this year and secure billions of dollars in aid. Ghani has said the funds are essential to pay Afghan soldiers as they fight Taliban insurgents who ran the country before the U.S. invasion in 2001.
“A disputed result could threaten the country’s fragile democracy and stability,” Faizullah Jalal, an economics professor at Kabul University, said by phone. “The international community must intervene and coordinate with Afghan institutions to find a way for its resolution otherwise we may experience another civil war and national crisis.”
“We have long stated our support for a credible, transparent and inclusive process that is broadly supported by the Afghan people and which produces a president who can govern the country,” the State Department said in a statement. “We call on all sides to work toward this goal and to avoid steps that undermine national unity.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said last month the elections “were better managed and more advanced than those previously” and called on Abdullah to cooperate in the vote-counting process. It also warned against moves from either side that could ignite ethnic conflict.
Karzai, in power since 2001, is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term. Abdullah won 45 percent of seven million votes in the first round of the election on April 5, with Ghani taking 32 percent, both falling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
“We’ve seen a measure of calm on the streets of Kabul in recent days as the two camps talk about how to break the political standoff,” said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Kabul. “If preliminary results are announced on Monday, as promised, we could see another round of protests with a potential for violence.”
The election results will be announced at 2 p.m. in Kabul, Marzia Siddiqi Salim, an election commission spokeswoman, said in a statement today.
Abdullah, who finished second in the 2009 election, accused Karzai of intervening in the runoff and has sought to void about 2.5 million votes in southern and eastern regions, saying the number of ballots exceeded the population in certain areas. One senior election official he had accused of fraud resigned last month.
If the results are announced today, they would include fraudulent ballots, according to Sayed Fazel Sancharaki, a spokesman for Abdullah’s camp.
“It will have very negative and problematic consequences in the country,” Sancharaki said by phone, referring to an announcement of election results today. “It must be delayed again.”
Ghani, who has also submitted election complaints, urged Abdullah to rejoin the vote-counting process.
“The date of July 7 is not debatable, and irreversible for us,” Ghani, a former finance minister, told reporters in Kabul on July 5. “People are waiting for the election results to be announced and it cannot be postponed again.”
The delay in announcing results occurred because of investigations and recounting at about 2,000 polling stations across 30 provinces, Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, the election body’s chairman, said on July 2. Final results are now scheduled for July 24, he said the following day.
Abdullah, 53, is half Pashtun and half Tajik. He was a close aide to Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, an ethnic Tajik seen by many Afghans as a national hero for fighting against Soviet occupiers in the 1980s and the Taliban in the 1990s.
Ghani is an ethnic Pashtun who served as Afghanistan’s finance minister from 2002-2004 and finished fourth in the 2009 election. He holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Columbia University in New York.
Pashtuns account for 42 percent of Afghanistan’s 32 million people, while Tajiks make up 27 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook. In the 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew, factional fighting killed thousands of people and led ultimately to the Taliban regime, which was ousted by the U.S. after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.