AFGHANISTAN ELECTORAL CRISIS: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
“This audit will be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards,” – US Secretary of State, John Kerry
A relieved John Kerry stood at a podium in Kabul with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election late Saturday night after intense negotiations between the pair, announcing that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul.
Outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, was catapulted to the presidency 12 years ago by Western powers after the ousting of the Taliban, is expected to retain influence after stepping down – some stay his ambitions are like those of Vladamir Putin, who stepped down from the presidency of Russia due to term limits but wielded power from behind before returning. Mr. Abdullah has accused him of rigging the vote in favor of Ghani.
Vote-rigging allegations were rampant in Afghanistan’s first election after the ousting of the Taliban by a combination of Western and Afghan forces mainly loyal to Mr. Abdullah’s party. Mr. Karzai was the alleged beneficiary of this vote rigging, last time, and his candidate, Mr. Ghani is being accused to be the beneficiary of fraud in the current round, which has led to a crisis in the country’s government.
Abdullah and Ghani had not met in person since the vote but Kerry managed to bring them together at a U.N. compound in central Kabul to give a joint news conference.
“This audit will be conducted in accordance with the highest international standards,” said Kerry, flanked by both candidates. As he announced the total recount, many in the audience gasped.
“The auditing will be internationally supervised in a manner proposed by the U.N. assistance mission; the candidates’ campaigns will each provide joint oversight of the audit.”
In a show of unity after months of bitter bickering, Ghani kissed Abdullah on the cheek after addressing reporters.
“Since we have agreed to a 100 percent audit of ballots, I request from President Karzai to postpone inauguration of a new government,” Mr. Abdullah said.
The inauguration is scheduled to be held on August 2nd, and opponents of Mr. Karzai are concerned that he will proceed with the inauguration of Mr. Ghani, a candidate close to the outgoing president, in order to create legitimacy around the disputed result, which put Mr. Ghani ahead of Mr. Abdullah.
Boxes from the provinces will be flown to the capital by helicopter by U.S. and international forces and examined on a rolling basis. Representatives from each campaign as well as international observers will oversee the review, and the candidate with the most votes will be declared the winner and become president.
In comments to reporters on Friday, Mr. Kerry said Afghanistan’s transition to a self-reliant state hung in the balance unless the legitimacy of the election could be restored.
Washington has warned of repercussions if either side declares victory and tries to grab power illegitimately.
The United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting Taliban insurgents, but the country remains dependent on foreign aid, principally from Washington, its biggest foreign donor.