After a long delay and political disagreements, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan finally announced last week the preliminary results of the Presidential election, held in September. But the results are unlikely to resolve the political crisis the war-torn country is undergoing.
The election that saw a record low turnout — only a quarter of the 9.66 million registered voters turned up to vote amid widespread violence by the insurgents — itself was controversial. The preliminary results have put the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani in the lead over his rivals, mainly Abdulla Abdulla, the Chief Executive in the current administration.
With 923,868 votes, President Ghani secured 50.64% of the total votes cast. Mr. Abdullah won 39.52% votes, according to the IEC. Predictably, the winning side welcomed the results, while Mr. Abdullah’s team has cast shadows over it.
“This result is a product of thousands of sacrifices that we have given,” Basir Mohammadi, a close aide of Amrullah Saleh, the former intelligence chief and Mr. Ghani’s running mate, told The Hindu .
“Our office was attacked by the Taliban on the first day of our campaign, and we lost more than 30 of our friends and colleagues,” Mr. Mohammadi said, recalling an attack on Mr. Saleh in August. “But we are looking at the broader picture...this victory has come after thousands of sacrifices, and we are looking forward to the final results to have the platform for the opportunity to serve the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
Both leading candidates are waiting for the final announcement of the result. Already, other candidates, particularly Mr. Abdullah’s team, have disputed the preliminary results. Mr. Abdullah has alleged widespread fraud in the election. Haji Khalil Daresufi, a close aide of Mohammad Mohaqiq, Mr. Abdullah’s vice presidential candidate, told The Hindu that their team refused to accept the preliminary results.
“Our teams were always clear about the election and a transparent election was our main demand,” he said. “Our red line was clear — we won’t accept non-biometric votes. We protested against mixing fraudulent votes with clean ones.” He added Mr. Abdullah’s team would be registering complaints with the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC). Election observers from Dr. Abdullah’s team have claimed that as many as 3,00,000 votes are fraudulent and have demanded that they be declared invalid.
The IECC has registered the complaints and will be investigating and evaluating the cases before it announces the final results. While the Election Commission did not give a specific date for such an announcement, a spokesperson told The Hindu that based on Afghan law, “the IECC will have 37-39 days to evaluate all the complaints and to send the final result back to the IEC”.
Mr. Abdullah’s campaign team has accused the IEC of favouring one candidate over the others. “The IEC showed to the people of Afghanistan that they lack independence. We will take action through transparent means and will fight for every vote that was cast in our favour. We will not let anyone play with the true mandate of the people, or damage it with their unclean votes,” Mr. Daresufi said.
However, Mr. Mohammadi of the Saleh campaign emphasized that the election commissioners were independent. “It must be noted that the commissioners, whether with the IEC or the IECC, were elected by all the 18 candidates, not just one,” he said. “If it is a shame, it is a collective shame for all of us. And if it is a victory, it should be a victory for all of us.”
The situation threatens to escalate like the crisis that unfolded after the 2014 presidential election when a deadlock between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah led to two rounds of voting and political instability. Eventually, the then U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, brokered a power sharing deal between the two to create a national unity government.
Representatives of both parties, however, claimed that the situation now is different and showed no interest in sharing power again. “It’s not the same as 2014. It is clear to everyone that the preliminary result the IEC announced is based on fraud numbers. Afghans are tired of these repeated frauds. We won’t allow this to happen again,” Mr. Daresufi said.
In a rare agreement between the two sides, Mr. Mohammadi said: “The ground reality is not like that of 2014, and none of us will be interested in a power sharing deal.
Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for the final results.
Ruchi Kumar is a journalist based in Kabul