Dr. Abdullah suspends Afghan runoff elections on accusations of fraud

Abdullah Abdullah, long considered the frontrunner for the future president of Afghanistan, has suspended his involvement with the Independent Election Commission (IEC), recalling his party monitors from commission offices, on account of what he has described as “industrial-scale fraud,” saying that “the counting process should stop immediately and if that continues, it will have no legitimacy.” He has claimed that the supposedly independent election commission is currently in cahoots with current President Hamid Karzai, whose aim is to install Ashraf Ghani or for Karzai to use a postelection crisis to allow himself to extend his own term.

Before yesterday, only Dr. Abdullah’s campaign advisors were accusing Mr. Ghani directly of complicity in the alleged fraud, but a recent live news conference on Tolo yesterday made it clear that the candidate himself felt very similarly. Abdullah called on an immediate halt to the counting of ballots, citing the fact that only 6.6 million voters took part in the initial election preceding the runoff and the election commission reported that over 7 million voted in the runoff itself, a substantial increase. Calling the claim “uncorroborated,” he further declared that between one and two million ballots were fraudulent.

While there has been little input from abroad on this issue, NGO election monitors within Afghanistan, including the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), which sent some 9,000 observers into all 34 provinces, said the second round’s turnout was likely closer to 5 million than the official number of 7 million. As it is unlikely that the provinces in question saw a higher turnout than the initial election, more suspicion is cast on the official number considering that these provinces are notable Ghani strongholds. TEFA reported that in Khost province about 113,000 people voted in the first round, with over 400,000 ballots apparently cast by official numbers in the second. Khost has a total population of 549,000 – with similar issues reported in Paktia, Wardak, Nangarhar, and Logar.

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