The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has postponed announcing the preliminary result of the Afghan presidential election, expected on July 2, with the final result scheduled for July 22.

The June 14 run-off vote in the Afghan presidential election has led to an angry stalemate, with former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah accusing his rival, former Defence Minister and ex-World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, of having indulged in extensive fraud. Mr. Abdullah also says outgoing President Hamid Karzai, together with provincial governors and the police, colluded with Mr. Ghani, who claims to have won by over a million votes; Mr. Abdullah had won the first round, with 45 per cent of the vote against Mr. Ghani’s 31.6. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has postponed announcing the preliminary result, which is expected on July 2, with the final result scheduled for July 22. In addition, unverified audio tapes released by Mr. Abdullah reportedly confirm the involvement of a senior election official, Mr. Ziaulhaq Amarkhail, and other officials in stuffing ballot boxes. Afghan TV has also broadcast footage of an election-day altercation between Mr. Amarkhail and a senior police officer. Mr. Abdullah, who initially led an estimated 10,000 demonstrators protesting against the way the election was conducted and has questioned the IEC’s statement that seven million of the 12-million-strong electorate voted on the day, is now keeping a low profile. He has, however, complained to United Nations officials in Afghanistan. Mr. Ghani has lodged his own protests with the IEC; his team filed some 1,800 complaints during the election, and he has withdrawn from the counting process.

Meanwhile, certain serious issues remain unaddressed. The United States-Afghanistan agreement on the deployment of U.S. troops following the NATO pullout on December 31 remains unsigned, as Mr. Karzai challenged certain points and now seems to have left the matter to the next President. Secondly, any prolonged dispute over the election result will almost certainly undermine the alliances that both candidates have forged with regional leaders and warlords, and could worsen ethnic tensions. Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun, belongs to the country’s largest ethnic group, while Mr. Abdullah has strong links with the second largest, namely, Tajiks. Furthermore, low-level insurgency continues, and during the election voters braved Taliban threats and attacks in order to participate in it. The election itself was far better run than the 2009 poll; complaint hotlines worked, counting teams were duplicated to minimise fraud, and polling stations posted results for voters to read. Afghan voters have shown they want a democratic state, but their own leaders appear unable to accept an election result. If the malpractice allegations are proved, they will have shown themselves incapable of honest participation. Nothing would suit the Taliban better.

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