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.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- Business News Europe reports that Central Asian nations, mainly Turkmenistan, supply nearly 50% of all of China’s imported energy needs. Ashgabat, which maintains strong relations with officials in Beijing, transported over 24bn cubic meters (bcm) of gas to China during 2013, and that figure is expected to grow. Among other nations, Uzbekistan transmitted nearly 3 bcm, and Kazakhstan, despite high expectations, failed to progress substantially and exported a paltry 0.1 bcm.
- The Tajik Minister of Energy and Water Resources reiterated the desire within Dushanbe to see the country’s ultra-ambitious Rogun hydropower dam project through to fruition. The fact that Tajikistan is eager to demonstrate its continued in the interest is no surprise, though in terms of concrete detail and possible steps to be taken, little was offered. Tajikistan is currently playing host to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been outspoken in voicing his support for the Rogun dam, as well as its status as one of the central pillars of the inchoate CASA-1000 energy project, a multinational initiative to which both Pakistan and Tajikistan are party.
- A major Ukrainian natural gas pipeline exploded in Poltava Oblast province in eastern Ukraine. The explosion is currently under investigation by the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, and all causes for the blast, including sabotage, are being considered. The pipeline’s failure comes just days after Russia cut off supplies of gas to Ukraine over the latter’s default on a $2b repayment. The pipeline that was damaged will not impede the flow of gas to any of the countries that it services, including Switzerland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
- Despite the historical ties shared by Russia and Uzbekistan, the Uzbek capital of Tashkent recently placed near the bottom of a survey of the business climate in Central Asian cities. The survey used metrics as diverse as taxation, visa regime and the use of the Russian language, as well as the local government and “difficulties a foreign would encounter while starting a business.” Notoriously long (6-9 months) delays in supply deliveries influenced the results of the poll, as did the risk of businesses being overtaken or forced to pay bribes by corrupt government officials.