A U.N.-supervised audit of votes in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election has finished, according to an Afghan electoral official.
The audit of the June 14 run-off election was part of a U.S.-brokered deal to defuse escalating tension in a ballot intended to mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power.
Chaos in Afghanistan as western forces pull out most of their troops would be a political blow for those countries which have spent billions of dollars and lost about 3,500 soldiers in a bid to bring peace and stability since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
Independent Election Commission (IEC) official Noor Mohammad Noor to reporters in Kabul:
“It was a very important mission by the IEC and other major institutions which is finished now.”
The IEC has already began invalidating votes deemed fraudulent, but it was unclear when the last results of the audit — and Afghanistan’s next president — would be announced.
Preliminary results from the run-off put former finance minister and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani well ahead of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Abdullah rejected the result, claiming widespread fraud and calling the outcome a “coup” against the Afghan people.
Since then, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has flown to Afghanistan twice to mediate a deal in which both candidates agreed to a full audit of the vote, and, based on the result, to form a national unity government, a pledge the contenders reiterated in a joint statement to a NATO summit.
The crisis over the vote’s outcome has raised the specter of instability, turmoil and potential conflict in a country already battling a potent Taliban insurgency.
The seven-week audit, a painstaking exercise involving over eight million votes, was slow-going at times, punctuated by heated arguments between the two candidates’ observers present during the process.
In late August, Abdullah’s team boycotted the audit, calling it “worthless” in the face of what they have alleged as widespread fraud in the June vote.
The United Nations then asked Ghani’s team to withdraw its observers too, in the interest of fairness. The audit proceeded in its last week with Afghan and international observers present.
Talks on the national unity government were going on, according to both candidates’ camps, though details of what that government might look like remained murky.
Hamid Karzai, Afghan president:
“I will endorse any final agreement reached in this regard between the two sides.”