ghani wins, opponent claims victory too





by mujib mashal, najim rahim, fatima faizi, taimoor shah

the new york times

february 18, 2020


KABUL, Afghanistan — President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday was declared the winner of Afghanistan’s presidential vote after five months of delayed results and bitter dispute. But the announcement threatened to tip the country into a full-blown political crisis on the cusp of a U.S. peace deal with the Taliban.

Just hours after the announcement, Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah — who accuses Afghanistan’s election commission of favoring the incumbent — also declared himself the winner and said he would form a government of his own.

The dispute over the election result comes just after a breakthrough in the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, with the two sides arriving at a tightly choreographed peace plan expected to be rolled out in a matter of days. The plan calls first for a test period of “violence reduction,” which would lead to the Taliban and Washington signing a deal. Soon after that, the two Afghan sides would sit down to discuss the political future of the country.

But Western diplomats have long feared that a political crisis in Kabul would weaken the Afghan government’s hand in the negotiations and affect the overall peace plan.

The timing of the election conflict means Mr. Ghani’s government will be challenged, and distracted, during the tight window of days when the details of the “violence reduction” need to be determined.

In a news conference announcing the election result after an audit of about 15 percent of the total vote, the chief of Afghanistan’s election commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, said that Mr. Ghani had won with the narrowest of margins — 50.64 percent of the vote, just surpassing the 50 percent minimum required for an outright victory with no runoff. Mr. Abdullah received 39.5 percent.

The win puts Mr. Ghani in position for another five-year term as president.

“This is not just an election victory,” Mr. Ghani said, flanked by his running mates, after the result was announced. “This is the victory of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. This is the victory of the people’s wishes.”

Hours later, however, Mr. Abdullah appeared in a televised address surrounded by his own supporters.

“I asked those who believe in democracy, in a healthy future for this country, in citizens’ rights to stand up to fraud and to not accept this fraudulent result,” Mr. Abdullah said. “We are the winners based on clean votes, and we declare our victory. We will form the inclusive government.”

Both candidates spoke from their palaces, where throngs of their supporters had gathered. A narrow road leads to both, with little space separating the two compounds. Late into Tuesday evening, as the supporters of both sides remained inside, the road was tense, overflowing with armored vehicles and the armed guards of both camps.

For Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah, the situation is almost a repeat of five years ago, when both were stuck in another disputed election that went to a runoff. For many ordinary Afghans, it’s a frustrating case of déjà vu.

After Mr. Abdullah led in the first round in 2014, Mr. Ghani came from behind to win in the runoff, leading to Mr. Abdullah rejecting the results. It took John Kerry, then Secretary of State, to broker a power-sharing agreement where Mr. Ghani became president and Mr. Abdullah became the government’s chief executive, with control over a large share of appointments.

The brokered deal deeply hurt the faith in elections of many Afghans, and the turnout for this year’s vote, held in September amid a record number of Taliban attacks intended to destabilize the election, was low.

During their five years sharing power, the two men were frequently at each other’s throats, their bickering often bringing the government to a standstill amid a bloody war that took the lives of about 50,000 Afghan forces in that time.

When they both ran for president again, it raised fears that the country’s institutions — particularly the weary security forces — could be split apart.

The initial results of the vote were delayed by months. When Mr. Ghani was declared in the lead in the preliminary count, Mr. Abdullah and several other candidates disputed about 300,000 votes from the low turnout of about 1.8 million. Among those were 100,000 ballots registered in the system either before or after voting hours — in some cases by weeks or months.

Mr. Abdullah’s supporters say those were fraudulent votes cast in favor of Mr. Ghani. The election commission has attributed the irregularities to human error in setting the time and date of devices that recorded the votes.

The preparations to announce the final results suddenly picked up steam this week as the peace deal became imminent, with many reading it as Mr. Ghani making sure a Taliban deal does not deny him a second term in office.

But many of Mr. Abdullah’s strongest supporters threatened the formation of a parallel government if their grievances — which Mr. Ghani’s team sees as obstructionism so that the opposition can get a share of the power — were not taken into account.

Abdul Rashid Dostum, one of Mr. Abdullah’s main supporters and a powerful strongman who was previously Mr. Ghani’s vice president, said at a recent gathering: “Even if they put a knife on my throat, even if they hang me, I will not accept an announcement based on fraud.”


The New York Times


biden sticks his foot in his mouth


afghanistan times

february 10, 2020


During presidential election inter-partisan debates in the United States, it has become customary for the leading candidates to engage in debates where they table topics for discussion which are often the most controversial issues of the time. A recent instance is of a hardcore democratic politician’s remarks regarding Afghanistan, something that has riled Afghans. Joe Biden, who is a candidate for president in the 2020 US election, while addressing a debate said, “with regards to Afghanistan, I was totally against the whole notion of nation-building. There’s no possibility at all of making it a whole country. But it is possible to see they’re not able to launch more attacks.” Afghan politico and masses have lambasted Biden for such absurd and morally bankrupt notions, and rightly so. Former president Hamid Karzai in a statement called Joe Biden’s remarks on Afghanistan ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unrealistic’ and said ‘it is evident that the US has never sought nation-building in Afghanistan.’ The question here is why does he think like that and remark as such?

It’s mainly because of being a gifted demagogue with particular skill in manipulating the American taxpayers by stating the popular opinion to win the public support in the election. However, he should know that Afghanistan has remained a resilient nation. No country in the world could go through 40 years of back-to-back invasions, interferences, imposed wars and still remain intact. It’s Afghanistan which has remained united despite the war and destruction. Biden scapegoating Afghanistan for its multiethnic trait is just a demagogic move, something usually expected from politicians. Afghanistan has remained a nation-state because we share the same culture despite ethnic disparities, which should be our strength not a weakness. In Afghanistan, nation-building is possible if we have a grassroots-approach and is undoubtedly impossible when it is an external imposition. These remarks should serve as a wake-up call for Afghans to beware of the manipulative designs of some elements who want to divide us along ethnic lines.

Moreover, multiple reports have suggested and many agree that American nation-building efforts have so far failed to establish and sustain democracies in 11 (excluding Afghanistan) countries. And one reason could be the securitization modus operandi used by the US – an extreme version of politicization that enables extraordinary means to be used in the name of security – while providing the posturing and alibi of building our nation. Therefore, such outspoken and revolutionary ideas by the American politician are only aimed at winning public support of Republican-exhausted American voters in the upcoming election. The natural fabric of Afghan society is tightly woven to the extent that despite ethnic dissimilarities, we have remained intact and will remain as such against the consistent foreign interference. Therefore, Biden should drop his maximalist position, which will do him no good, and apologize for his ignorant and irresponsible statement regarding Afghanistan.



abdullah urges clear election tally


afghanistan times

february 8, 2020


KABUL: As election authorities are hewing closer to a conclusion and settlement in regard with contested issues surrounding 2019 elections, the incumbent chief executive Abdullah Abdullah urged the commissions to ensure transparency in tabulation and announcement of the election results.

Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, Dr. Abdullah said announcement of presidential election results will ‘save Afghanistan from the perils of war and the grip of the uncertainty the country is subjected to’.

“Presidential election outcome must be transparent and in line with the law; which would provide a trajectory for the nation through this tumultuous circumstance to democratic, development and cultural progress phase.”

This is as the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, said earlier that Afghans expect their leaders to work together for stabilizing the country until the election outcome.

“As Afghans await election results, they expect the Government of National Unity to focus on stability, security, and the economy. The GNU provides the framework for Afghanistan’s leaders to cooperate and address these challenges inclusively until a new government is formed,” she said in a tweet.

The electoral complaints commission announced Saturday that it had finalized and handed over its final decision about 300,000 controversial ballots to the independent election commission for implementation – despite a three-day delay in its proceedings. Spokeswoman Zarmina Kakar Haqjoo said Saturday that our decisions have been finalized and will be handed over to the election commission in an official letter, “probably by the end of today”.

The decisions pertained to 300,000 controversial votes – according to which, 10% of 137,000 suspicious ballots and 15% of 102,000 belated ballots will be recounted. If the recount ascertains that 65% of the retallied ballots lack validity, all the contests ballots will be invalidated and scrapped. Having biometric information, poll ledger and polling station result sheet are the criteria for ballots to qualify for validation.

Deputy Spokesperson of the Independent Election Commission, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast, has announced the authority’s preparation for implementation of the complaints tribunal’s decisions for recount. “We will begin the conduct of recount as soon as the complaints commission hands over its verdict,” he said.



ghani rival boycotts vote recount


by sayed salahuddin

arab news

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.


original story:


election blues


by ayesha tanzeem

voice of america

september 29, 2019 (sunday)


KABUL – Afghan officials are counting votes after Saturday’s presidential election that was held amid repeated threats by the Taliban and fear of post-election chaos.

Better performance by electoral and security authorities notwithstanding, fears remain that disagreements on the result might engulf the country into a destabilizing fight for power.

Empty polling stations and empty ballot boxes. These were the scenes VOA teams found in the capital Kabul and many parts of the country Saturday.

Unofficial estimates indicate the voter turnout will be a historic low.

Extreme threats from the Taliban, voter dissatisfaction with candidates, and confusion over whether the twice-delayed elections will be held this time, kept campaigns from gaining steam.

Now that they were held, given Afghanistan’s track record, many fear a dispute over results that could devolve into a full-blown crisis.

Some candidates, like former warlord turned politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, seem to already be preparing for such a scenario.

“The elections will result in increased violence. No one will accept the results other than those who were involved in widespread fraud. Naturally, it will result in a crisis,” he said.

The process of counting votes in Afghanistan is long. Ballot boxes have to arrive from far off places with little or no communication lines. The preliminary results are not expected for a few weeks. Only then will they get to any complaints.

“The law is very clear. If there is fraud, candidates and their followers can go to the Election Complaints Commission and register their complaints. The commission will decide upon them and we are committed to abide by its decision,” said Habibur Rehman, Secretary of the Election Comission.

The last presidential election was marred by allegations of fraud and the country became so divided that then-Secretary of State John Kerry had to step in and broker a power-sharing deal between the two leading candidates. The same two, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, seemed to be leading in this year’s race as well.

Despite the introduction of more robust systems this time to avoid fraud, including taking finger prints and pictures of voters, allegations of fraud have already emerged from certain quarters.

If more voices join ranks, this could wreak havoc to an already fragile system.

Both election and security authorities insist that they are ready to deal with any scenario. And everyone is hoping for a smooth transition. But Afghanistan has a long history of post-election chaos.