Afghanistan incumbent President Ashraf Ghani won a second term, the country’s independent Election Commission announced on February 18, more than four months after polls closed. The Commission said Mr. Ghani garnered 9,23,592 votes, or 50.64%, in the election that took place on September 28 last year. His main challenger, the country’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah received 7,20,841 votes, or 39.52%.
But, Mr. Abdullah contested the results and vowed he would form his own parallel government. “Our team, based on clean and biometric votes, is the victor and we declare our victory. The fraudsters are the shame of history and we announce our inclusive government,” Mr. Abdullah said at a press conference in Kabul.
Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under U.S. pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan’s 2014 elections.
Election results were repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots. The final vote tally was originally to be announced November 7.
On election day, many Afghans found incomplete voters’ lists, unworkable biometric identification systems aimed at curbing fraud, and in some cases hostile election workers.
In Kabul, it was rare to see a crowded polling centre. Afghans who had patiently lined up before voting centres were opened, in some locations found that election officials had yet to arrive by opening time.
The Election Commission tried to launch a ballot recount in November, but Mr. Abdullah halted the attempt, saying he would not let his observers participate. Thousands of his supporters rallied against what they said were fake ballots and the controversial recount had seemed set to favour Mr. Ghani.
In December, however, Mr. Abdullah agreed to allow a ballot recount in provinces where his supporters had stopped the process.
The government’s push to hold the vote in itself had been controversial. In an interview before the election, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned the election could be destabilising for the country at a time of deep political uncertainty.
The February 18 election results came days after U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced a truce agreement between the United States and the Taliban that could lead to the withdrawal of American troops from the country.
The agreement was expected to be formally announced on February 23 and the reduction in violence would begin on February 24, according to people familiar with the plan. That would be followed by all-Afghan peace talks that envision the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces over 18 months, ending 18 years of war.
Mr. Ghani has been critical of the way U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has conducted the talks with the Taliban, complaining about being kept in the dark.
Mr. Ghani, from central Logar province, was born May 19, 1949. He holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Columbia University and first went to the U.S. as a high school exchange student.
Except for a brief teaching stint at Kabul University in the early 1970s, Mr. Ghani lived in the United States, where he was an academic until joining the World Bank as a senior adviser in 1991.
Mr. Ghani returned to Afghanistan after 24 years when the Taliban were ousted by the U.S.-led coalition. He was head of Kabul University until he joined President Hamid Karzai’s government as Finance Minister. In 2010, he led the lengthy process to transfer security of the country from U.S.-led coalition forces to the Afghanistan National Security Forces, which took effect in 2014.