Monday, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan released preliminary results from the June 14 Presidential election run-off between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Mr. Ashraf Ghani. Last-minute talks delayed the announcement but seem to have yielded little progress in resolving the mounting conflict between the candidates.
Shortly after the polls closed on June 14, Abdullah leveled stark accusations of massive fraud at Ghani. Abdullah withdrew from the election process, accusing the IEC of colluding with Ghani.
The unsurprising preliminary results confirmed Ghani’s long leaked lead. In the first round of voting, Abdullah led with 45% of the vote total. Ghani trailed after the first election by nearly a million votes. Now, the preliminary results place him ahead of Abdullah by just over a million votes.
This reversal fuels growing calls for a deeper audit of the ballots.
During his announcement of the preliminary results, IEC Head Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said that the commission accepts the fact that fraud occurred. He stressed that the preliminary results are simply preliminary, and that they may not reflect the final results.
The IEC’s planned audit of 2000 polling stations, notes the Afghan Analyst’s Network, is not be enough to overturn the present outcome. Two audits already conducted resulted in the invalidation of 6677 votes for Ghani and 5112 votes for Abdullah–inconclusive on Abdullah’s specter of organized single-sided corruption.
Over the weekend, support for a deeper audit widened. American Senators (Republicans McCain & Graham, Democrat Levin) and a team from the European Union expressed their support for a more comprehensive audit. Further international involvement in the Afghan election, however, is not necessarily welcomed in a nation exhausted by foreign involvement.
Fatema Aziz, an MP from Kunduz said “While Afghanistan has a Senate and House of Representatives, it is a shame that American Senators and representatives from the EU come here to finalize the Afghanistan elections.”
Abdullah refuses to re-engage with the IEC or return to the official election process until the “clean votes are separated from unclean votes.” His re-engagement is crucial to political stability.
Abdullah’s re-engagement in the election process is fundamental to any hope of an outcome to this election which is acceptable to all parties. However, the presence of his observers is also, in a very practical way, crucial to getting an audit that actually scrutinises the ballots.
Ghani has accepted that some fraud occurred in the election but remains adamant that the process move ahead as scheduled. Only a partial agreement was reached before the preliminary results were released: four triggers which will lead to the audit of an additional 7000+ polling stations. A Ghani spokesperson commented that the Abduallah camp had “other conditions that we couldn’t agree with…” Abdullah’s spokesperson said the 7000 polling stations was not enough, demanding that 11000 polling stations be audited for fraud.
The IEC’s run-off timeline indicates that final results will be published on July 22. Invitations for the August 2 inauguration have already been sent. The likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power is slipping away and with it the already beleaguered prospect of political stability in Afghanistan.