Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Afghanistan's presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani, centre, and Abdulah Abdullah hold their arms in the air together after announcing a deal for the auditing of all Afghan election votes at the United Nations Compound in Kabul, Saturday, July 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool) )
Afghan rivals reach deal, easing political crisis
Presidential election » Internationally supervised audit of 8M ballots expected to take weeks.
First Published Jul 12 2014 09:05 pm • Last Updated Jul 12 2014 09:05 pm

Kabul, Afghanistan • Afghanistan’s two rival candidates reached a breakthrough agreement Saturday to a complete audit of their contested presidential election and, whoever the victor, a national unity government.

The deal, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, offers a path out of what threatened to be a debilitating political crisis for Afghanistan, with both candidates claiming victory and talking of setting up competing governments.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Such a scenario could have dangerously split the fragile country’s government and security forces at a time the U.S. is pulling out most of its troops and the Taliban continues to wage a fierce insurgency.

Instead, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed to abide by a 100 percent, internationally supervised audit of all 8 million ballots in the presidential election. They vowed to form a national unity government once the results are announced, presumably one that includes members of each side.

Kerry, who conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two candidates late into the night Friday and Saturday, warned that much work still remained.

"This will be still a difficult road because there are important obligations required and difficult decisions to be made," Kerry told reporters after briefing Afghanistan’s current president, Hamid Karzai, shortly after midnight.

The audit, which comes after widespread fraud allegations, is expected to take several weeks, beginning with the ballot boxes in the capital of Kabul.

Boxes from the provinces will be flown to the capital by helicopter by U.S. and international forces and examined on a rolling basis. Representatives from each campaign as well as international observers will oversee the review, and the candidate with the most votes will be declared the winner and become president.

The candidates agreed to respect the result, and the winner would immediately form a national unity government. The inauguration, which had been scheduled for Aug. 2, would be postponed, with Karzai staying on a little longer as president.

Abdullah said the election created "serious challenges." But he praised Ghani for working toward the accord on the the audit and the unity government.


story continues below
story continues below

Ghani returned the compliments, lauding his competitor’s patriotism and commitment to a dialogue that promotes national unity.

"Stability is the desire of everyone," Ghani said. "Our aim is simple: We’ve committed to the most thorough audit" in history. Such a process would remove any ambiguity about the result, he added.

Abdullah and Ghani spoke first in English, then in Dari. Ghani also spoke in Pashto. When they were done, they shook hands and hugged. Kerry later joined them as they raised their arms in triumph hand-in-hand.

The announcement came as a relief to a country on edge and worried about how the election dispute would resolve itself. Both the full audit and the agreement to form a unity government drew praise from television commentators immediately after the speeches.

The prolonged uncertainty about the outcome of the election had jeopardized a central plank of President Barack Obama’s strategy to leave behind a stable state after the withdrawal of most U.S. troops at year’s end.

Preliminary runoff results, released earlier this week against U.S. wishes, suggested a massive turnaround in favor of Ghani, the onetime World Bank economist. He had lagged significantly behind Abdullah in first-round voting.

Abdullah, a top leader of the Northern Alliance that battled the Taliban before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, claimed massive ballot-stuffing. He was runner-up to Karzai in a fraud-riddled 2009 presidential vote before he pulled out of that runoff, and many of his supporters see him being cheated for a second time. Some, powerful warlords included, have spoken of establishing a "parallel government."

Kerry and Karzai discussed the deal past midnight Saturday. When they emerged early Sunday, the Afghan leader endorsed the outcome.

Speaking alongside Karzai at the Presidential Palace, Kerry said the democracy springing up in Afghanistan "deserved its full bloom." He offered robust U.S. support to ensure the deal holds.

The U.N. chief in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, who will direct much of the technical aspects of the audit, delivered his strongest praise for Kerry. He said Kerry’s work wasn’t typical diplomacy but almost a "miracle."

Extended instability would have immediate consequences for Afghanistan. If no process had been established and both Ghani and Abdullah attempted to seize power, the government and security forces could have split along ethnic and regional lines. The winner amid such chaos could be the Taliban, whose battle against the government persists despite the United States spending hundreds of billions of dollars and losing more than 2,000 lives since invading the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.