by sayed salahuddin
november 11 & 14, 2019
KABUL: Afghanistan’s elections were in deadlock on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani’s key rival, Abdullah Abdullah, called for a halt to a recount, saying he would not accept “fraud-marked” results. The move adds a fresh layer of uncertainty to the Sept. 28 poll, which was marred by a record low turnout and feuding between Abdullah and Ghani.
Speaking at a large gathering in Kabul, Abdullah, who has shared power with Ghani since the 2014 presidential elections, urged the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to review its decision on Saturday to carry out a recount.
He said that the IEC needed to discard tens of thousands of votes that it had already invalidated because they were not based on the biometric system — the key condition on which candidates and the IEC had agreed in order to minimize voter fraud.
Abdullah said he would not compromise with Ghani as he had done in the previous poll, which went to a second round following a US-brokered deal between the two.
“The election was held on the basis of use of biometric devices. When the vote is not on the basis of biometric, it means there is no credible vote,” he told the crowd.
“Our observers have refused to participate in the recount. We also informed the commission about it. When our observers have no presence in the supervision due to a legal objection and the fact that a legal regulation has been violated, then the results will have no legitimacy,” he said. Abdullah said that more than 2,400 biometric devices either had gone missing or had their chips removed.
A German firm hired to help in data transfer to the server has discarded more than 860,000 non-biometric votes. Two other candidates have also protested against the IEC’s decision to include invalidated votes in the recount.
A spokesman for Ghani, Fazl Rahman, said that the Afghan leader “accepts the commission’s recount decision provided there is no further delay in announcing the result of the votes.”
IEC officials had no immediate comment.
One commissioner for the government-appointed body, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arab News that a recount will delay an announcement of the initial vote result.
The initial vote was set to have been announced three weeks ago, but was delayed until Nov. 14. The presidential election saw the lowest voter turnout since the Taliban’s ousting and was twice delayed because of divisions within the government and US talks with the Taliban.
Of 9.6 million registered voters, less than 2 million people cast their votes due to Taliban attacks and disillusionment with leaders for failing to deliver on their campaign pledges.
Abdullah said Ghani’s team should be held accountable for any crisis related to the elections because the incumbent had pushed for a recount.
Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed victory days after the poll.
The election stalemate comes amid renewed US efforts to resume talks with the Taliban.
“If the result is announced by the commission, it is clear that the other side will not accept it because the two frontrunners have already claimed to have won,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst, told Arab News.
“We are reaching a deadlock. People are fed up with so many elections going wrong. It would be better to establish a caretaker government or third person to rescue Afghanistan from a deepening crisis,” he said.