Afghanistan Faces Ethnic Rift Following Final Vote Count

With all votes counted in Afghanistan, tensions are rising as some have been quick to anoint Ashraf Ghani as the new Afghan president, while others, including leading opposition candidate and previous frontrunner Dr. Abdullah Abdullah have labeled the election a “coup” and have refused to recognize the results of the election. The Afghan Independent Election Commission announced that Ghani received nearly 56% of the votes in the June 14 run-off, and that Abdullah received a mere 44%. This result has been widely questioned, and Abdullah even backed out of the race when it began to look like Ghani would win by landslide. The Afghan turnout for the initial, pre-runoff vote was considered an all-time high for the country, and led many to believe that the results of the runoff were fixed as they alleged that more than 7,000 new voters came out in support of Ghani.

The results of the election doubles place the country in a precarious position. It is doubtful that Ghani will capitulate, and that Abdullah will ever accept the results of the election without a thorough auditing of the votes by an external body, a possibility likely to be ruled out by Afghan electoral commissions.  If the status quo is maintained, Afghanistan faces the possibility of being divided along ethnic lines. Abdullah, who is an influential Tajik, and Ghani, an influential Pashtun, will likely maintain the support of their own ethnic groups, as well as Hamid Karzai, the current Afghan president and accused accomplice in voting irregularities. Adding to the dilemma is the seeming resurgence of large-scale Taliban military action in the country’s southwest. As recently as yesterday, Taliban forces attacked and killed an Afghan police chief in the western Afghan city of Herat and assaulted a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan. With the country seemingly divided along ethnic lines, a concerted effort to curb violence in the southwest is unlikely, placing the country’s future further in jeopardy.

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