KABUL - Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah insisted Monday that he won the country’s disputed election, dimming hopes that a power-sharing deal could soon be agreed to end the prolonged political crisis.
Abdullah repeated claims that massive ballot-rigging had denied him victory over his rival Ashraf Ghani in the race to lead Afghanistan as US-led NATO troops withdraw from their long war against Taliban insurgents.
The bitter stalemate over alleged fraud in the June 14 vote has raised fears of renewed ethnic violence as the 13-year international military and civilian development effort winds down.
“We were the winner of the elections, we are the winner of elections based on the real and clean votes of the people,” Abdullah said in a speech, his voice choking with emotion. “We do not accept fraudulent election results, and we will not accept a fraudulent government for one day.”
In a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the feuding candidates had agreed to a UN-supervised audit of all eight million votes, and to form a national unity government together whoever emerged as winner.
But Abdullah, who was far behind Ghani in preliminary results from the runoff vote, has pulled out of the audit and negotiations on the unity government have also ground to a halt.
“The election turned into a disaster because of election commission treason, which the government was also a part of,” Abdullah said. “The commission was not interested in revealing fraud, because it was part of it. “Today the political process has reached a deadlock.”
The United Nations had said that the audit results would be finalised this week and the delayed inauguration held soon thereafter, though Abdullah’s stance threw that timetable further into doubt.
Afghan politics has been in virtual paralysis since election campaigning began in February, with outgoing President Hamid Karzai admitting the impasse over results was damaging the country’s fragile security and economy.
Street protests by loyalists from either team risk spilling into violence because Abdullah draws his support from Tajiks and other northern Afghan groups, while Ghani is backed by Pashtun tribes of the south and east.
Abdullah was careful on Monday to avoid calling for protests by his supporters, some of whom have urged him to form a “parallel government” unless he wins power. “We were never pro-violence in any phase, we do not foster violence and we do not accept violence,” he stressed.
A failed election would seriously imperil NATO support and the other aid on which Afghanistan relies, as well as dashing hopes that democracy would be a legacy of the costly US-led intervention since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama on Sunday urged the rival candidates in Afghanistan’s disputed election to come to an agreement on a national unity government to end the crisis over the vote.
Both presidential candidates claim to have won the June 14 election, triggering a political stalemate and rising ethnic tension as US-led NATO combat troops withdraw after 13 years of fighting the Taliban.
In telephone calls with both candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, Obama “emphasized the importance of concluding a deal on the national unity government as soon as possible in the interest of shoring up international support for Afghanistan and preserving Afghan stability,” the White House said.
“The President reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to support Afghanistan, its people, and the president and chief executive, should the agreement be formalized, in their efforts to form a new unity government,” it said.
The United Nations has said results of an audit into the polls should be finalized by September 10, with the delayed inauguration of President Hamid Karzai’s successor scheduled to be held soon after.
In talks with Germany’s foreign minister in the Afghan capital Saturday, Abdullah and Ghani reportedly said negotiations on a unity government had “made some progress but there remains many difficult political questions that have not been answered.”