An external audit of votes cast during Afghanistan’s presidential elections has finally been completed. The audit, which took into consideration an estimated 8 million suspicious ballots, took nearly seven weeks and was the source of much conflict throughout. Both leading candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, abandoned the audit the its neared its completion, albeit for different reasons. Abdullah walked away from the audit due to the UN-sponsored audit team’s refusal to meet a series of demands imposed by the Abdullah campaign, while Ghani left at the UN’s insistence, in order to avoid the perception of partiality.
While the Afghan IEC did confirm the termination of the audit process this past week, it is still unclear when the results will be released, or how power will ultimately be divided. Current President Hamid Karzai has pleaded for both candidates to collaborate and quickly establish who will end up as the country’s chief executive, a neutral position created to satisfy both candidates. The candidates recently communicated a message suggesting that they will form a “unity government” that will see the two share power, though previous plans spearheaded by US Secretary of State John Kerry were dismissed by both candidates. The two candidates are expected to release a statement sometime today or at another point early this week that details the results of the elections, though problems could still arise, as recent reports suggest that Abdullah has been urged by supporters to refrain from ceding support to individuals allied with Ghani.
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- Uzbekistan has begun to put new restrictions on what bloggers are allowed to postonline, prohibiting content “defames the honor and dignity” of individual citizens. President Karimov signed this decree into law on September 5 that obliges bloggers to check the accuracy of information before publishing it and bans any posts deemed to back the overthrow of the state or spreading religious extremism, drug use, or pornography.
- A charter aircraft carrying American military contractors and over 100 American citizens that took off from Bagram in Afghanistan was forced to land inside of Iran and held for several hours, US officials reported. The charter was operated by Fly Dubai, and on its way to Dubai in the UAE and took off hours later than anticipated, after which Iranian authorities said the plane’s flight plan was no longer valid and it was ordered to return to Afghanistan. The issue was resolved later that afternoon and the plane was allowed to proceed to Dubai.
- Outgoing President Hamid Karzai issued yet another plea for speed to resolve the country’s electoral crisis and called for both candidates to put aside differences and form a national unity government where one becomes president and the other becomes chief executive, which was the new position created by a compromise brokered between the two by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
- Despite the imposition of a ceasefire brokered between Russia and Ukraine on Friday,Ukrainian government forces are still coming under artillery fire around Mauripol, according to Reuters. This constituted a major violation of the ceasefire agreement on Saturday. In the days preceding the ceasefire, government forces were trying to repel a major separatist offensive around Mauripol, with sporadic fighting continuing around the besieged city of Donetsk. The next step in the plan for peace is a prisoner exchange, but spokesman for the National Defense Council Andriy Lysenko gave no timeframe for when this would be completed.
- US Congressmen have lauded Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s efforts to stabilize the situations in Ukraine and Afghanistan. House Members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) have praised Nazarbayev’s stance on the situation in Ukraine, additionally praising their accession to the WTO and overall strategy of economic development. Nazarbayev met with Meeks and Rohrabacher in Borovoe to discuss trade between the US and Kazakhstan.