12 July 2014
The Afghan election stalemate has come to an end with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mediating a 48-hour negotiation between the two candidates and brokering a deal to audit all 8.1 million votes cast on June 14 runoff.
Addressing a joint press conference at the United Nations (UN) office in Kabul on Saturday evening, Secretary Kerry, presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai said they have reached both a technical and political deal.
Kerry said that both candidates have reached a common ground in negotiations saying that “both are determined that the votes of the people of Afghanistan are counted.”
Secretary Kerry arrived in Kabul on Friday morning after Abdullah suspended his ties with the electoral commissions and vowed to establish a parallel government.
The agreements, reached after almost two days of consistent talks, include a Kabul-based and UN monitored audit of all votes and a formation of a national unified government under the supervision of the winner immediately after the results are announced.
The audit is set to be carried out in the next 24 hours in Kabul. Ballot boxes from other provinces will be transferred by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the audits will be supervised by the UN and the candidates’ agents.
“We anticipate this process will take a number of weeks, so we and UNAMA have asked President Hamid Karzai and the elections commissions to postpone the inauguration,” Kerry said. “Both candidates have agreed to abide by the results of the audit.”
Head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, had sent out a letter to the president emphasizing that the audit will take a considerable amount of time to conduct in which he requests,on behalf of the two candidates, that the inauguration for the new President of Afghanistan be delayed by roughly a month.
During his talk, Kerry added that the “Afghans want a democracy that works not for some, but for all.”
At the end of Kerry’s announcement, Abdullah Abdullah took to the stage thanking both the secretary and rival Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai. He went on to say and reiterate what Secretary Kerry emphasized, that the inauguration ceremony needs to be put off.
“We have a technical agreement and a framework of national unity,” Abdullah said. “I would request President Karzai to delay the inauguration date.”
The inauguration date was scheduled for August 2, in which Secretary Kerry, Abdullah and Ghani-Ahmadzai all asked the president to delay until 100 percent of the votes are completely audited.
“Our agreement is in the interest of the people,” Abdullah announced. “Regardless of whom they cast their vote for.”
Ghani-Ahmadzai, in resonance to his opponent and Secretary Kerry, asked the president to postpone the inauguration as he has committed for the thorough audits.
“Fraud has no place in our national culture and democracy,” Ghani-Ahmadzai said. “Forming a government of national unity, should assure every Afghan, regardless of who they voted for, is committed to the well being of every Afghan. I request President Karzai to postpone the inauguration.”
Ghani-Ahmadzai said that he and Abdullah will form a national unified government under the leadership of the winner.
Just as the joint press conference ended, Secretary of State and UNAMA Head made their way to the Presidential Palace for another media conference in reaction to Abdullah-Ghani agreements.
President Karzai opened the conference by confirming that concerns were raised about frauds in the runoff and how he and his vice-presidents tried to address the concerns.
“Dr. Abdullah invited the UN to mediate in the election and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I and my vice-presidents stood away,” Karzai said. “I phone Abdullah and Ghani whether both wanted the UN mediation and I accepted it once both confirmed it.”
He did add that he wished “the election process to be Afghan-led and managed, but I accepted the UN mediation to resolve the issue.”
In response to the requests made earlier by the two candidates, the Secretary of State and UNAMA of postponing the inauguration ceremony, Karzai accepted their stance.
“I accept the postponement of the initially planned August 2 inauguration until the audit is completed,” Karzai announced. “I hope the audit takes place quickly.”
President Karzai’s agreement to remain in power for another couple of weeks after August 2 prevents a possible power vacuum in the country.
Kubiš, expressed his gratitude to the U.S. for their works in bringing the two candidates together and breaking the electoral stalemate.
“Both candidates showed true statesmanship, for a good future for Afghanistan,” Kubiš said. “The UN is here to support and provide assistance to a unique and inclusive audit.”
Kubiš thanked President Karzai for his leadership during the difficult time and praised Secretary Kerry’s role in ending the deadlock.
“Afghanistan is blessed to have such a strong partner like the US and a friend like yourself,” referring to Kerry, Kubiš said in his concluding remarks.