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Afghan elections update: nothing significant to report…

July 7, 2014

Summary: no useful signs of progress over electoral fraud.

abdullah and ghaniVoice of America reports today on further scrambles and delays to resolve the presidential election allegations of fraud.  There is no firm date as yet for an announcement of initial results of the second (and hopefully final) round of the ballot:

VoA 7th July 2014: Rival Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on Monday held last-minute talks to try to resolve a standoff over the outcome of a troubled election, as officials once again delayed the announcement of preliminary results.  The deadlock over the June 14 second round runoff has quashed hopes for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan, a headache for the West as most U.S.-led forces continue to withdraw from the country this year.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission had been due to announce results of the June 14 run-off vote at 2 p.m. (0930 GMT) but officials said it would be put off by a few hours.  It was unclear what caused the delay, which came as rival camps struggled to find a last-minute compromise to keep Afghanistan from sliding into a protracted period of uncertainty without a clear leader accepted by all sides…Fraud allegations

Both rounds of the vote have been plagued by accusations of mass fraud, and the refusal by either candidate to accept the outcome could split the fragile country along ethnic lines.  Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban fighter, and Ashraf Ghani, an ex-World Bank official, have locked horns over the election, with both effectively declaring victory in the contest to succeed President Hamid Karzai.

Abdullah, previously seen as the election front-runner, alleged he was the victim of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing on June 14 and has vowed not to recognize the vote count, according to the French news agency AFP.  Ghani, who was reported to be at least 1 million votes ahead, said the result is fair and must be released on Monday.

On Monday, both camps said they were holding renewed discussions to find ways to defuse the crisis, possibly about how many additional polling stations need to be audited in order to satisfy both candidates that the vote was free of fraud.

“Our meetings continued until midnight and there were some improvements but we haven’t reached final agreement,” said Mujibul Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, adding that the ball was now in Ghani’s court.

Ghani’s team said further delays were unacceptable.

“This is a red line for us,” Azita Rafhat, a Ghani spokeswoman, told AFP. “People want to know the result of their votes.”

Rafhat said they would announce their position on the talks later on Monday.

So no immediate sign of a breakthrough and difficult to get a sense of how the final outcome might look like, given the seemingly huge scale of the fraud problem.   A “deal” between the two candidates might on the one hand be sensible, but it might risk invalidating the point of the election if, say, the two worked out a power-sharing deal in some way.   A large recount – which still seems to be a realistic possibility – would be expensive, controversial and likely a very protracted process.

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