Afghan Candidate Threatens to Shun Vote Audit

One of the two men vying to become Afghanistan’s next president has threatened to boycott a ballot audit from the country’s disputed presidential runoff, his adviser said, a development that could further disrupt the already troubled process.

Abdullah Abdullah
Afghan candidate threatens to shun vote audit

The complicated, UN-supervised audit of the 8 million votes from the June presidential runoff was brokered by the US in July as a way to end the fractious debate over who won the election. The process followed allegations of vote fraud on both sides and is meant to decide whether Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, or former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai will replace President Hamid Karzai.

Abdullah Abdullah has said that the audit has failed to invalidate a sufficient number of ballots so far that would correspond to the level of vote fraud his team claims has taken place. A top adviser for Abdullah told reporters on Tuesday that if Abdullah’s concerns are not addressed by Wednesday morning, he will pull out of the audit. “If our demands are not accepted, we will announce the end of this process,” Fazel Ahmad Manawi said. “This process will not be acceptable to us and the result will not have any value.” Manawi said the election commission ignored their complaints about fraudulent ballots.

Recount ‘to proceed anyway’

A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, Noor Ahmad Noor, said the recount would proceed on Wednesday regardless of whether Abdullah Abdullah team decided to take part. The United Nations issued a lengthy statement pointing out the high level of input each team has had in the audit process and said the audit would continue even if one side pulls out. A representative from Ahmadzai’s campaign dismissed the boycott threat, saying they’d already made numerous concessions to Abdullah’s side and that the fraud Abdullah has been alleging simply was not there. “They don’t show up? So what?” Daoud Sultanzoy, who supervises the audit for the Ahmadzai team, said.

“When people try to threaten stability in this country we should not accommodate them because of their threats.” If Abdullah’s team goes through with their boycott threat, it raises concerns that his supporters would not consider the result to be valid and increases the likelihood of violence in what has already been a tense and lengthy election. Karzai has said the new president should be sworn in on September 2. The lack of a new president has held up the signing of a security agreement between the US and Afghanistan to allow its troops to stay in the country past the end of this year, when foreign forces are due to withdraw. Both candidates have promised to sign the agreement, which Karzai refused to sign. -aljazeera