US Secretary of State John Kerry is urging Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah to abide by the released audit results, which have not been made public yet. It is speculated by many that these results still show Abdullah losing by a wide margin of votes to his rival, the former Minister of Finance Ashraf Ghani. He is insisting that more ballots be invalidated to narrow Ghani’s presumed margin of victory. Both sides had pledged back in July to accept whatever results of the UN-monitored voting audit into allegations of widespread fraud in the runoff election that was held in June.
Kerry had brokered an additional deal between the two candidates to form a unity government as well, in a power sharing structure that splits responsibilities between two senior posts – the President and the newly created “Chief Executive.” Despite this compromise, it has not been established what responsibilities and powers the Chief Executive will have, if any, in comparison to the President. This has led to both candidates declaring they will set up their own separate governments if a deal is not reached. Abdullah additionally is demanding that final election results should be delayed until the powers of the chief executive position are more clearly defined within the Afghan constitution.
Spokesmen for both candidates outlined the tensions of the situation, indicating that it is less the candidates themselves at odds with one another, and more their supporters. Abdullah aides have stated repeatedly that they would not accept a result if it showed anything less than a close margin, but Ghani’s aides have said they want the true result of the election to be released to the public.
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- Water shortages in Iran may obligate Tehran to look to Persian-speaking Tajikistan to preemptively ward off water shortages. The topic of water imports was previously broached with officials in Dushanbe during Hassan Rouhani’s visit earlier this month, and talks appear to be progressing. Iran’s cabinet has already made nearly $11 million available to the country’s energy ministry to boost water imports, as reduced rainfall has increased Iranian reliance on wells and less-than-reliable sources of water.
- The Guardian reports on growing Russian influence in Kyrgyzstan. Moscow has doubtless begun to look at Bishkek as a potential energy and trade partner, now that EU and US sanctions have kicked in and begun to target the Russian economy. It’s likely that Russia will seek closer ties with countries in its immediate vicinity in order to at least mitigate the impact of Western sanctions, if not counterattack them altogether.
- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has indicated that the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine will lead to a sharp contraction in both the Ukrainian and Russian economies. The Ukrainian economy, which had already been predicted to recess, has been prevented by the ongoing conflict to produce according to expectations, and with military expenditures rising, will likely need to take out additional foreign debt to finance it, a phenomenon that is not limited to Ukraine. The EBRD also predicts a strong decline in the Russian economy, though it stated that Russia is in “no danger of exhausting its foreign exchange reserves, despite high levels of capital outflows.”
- A team of human rights workers from the United Nations was denied entry into Azerbaijani prisons yesterday. The team had been deployed to investigate allegations that the use of torture as a means to extract information from prisoners was rampant throughout the Azerbaijani penal system. The team issued a statement through the UN’s office in Geneva, alleging that the Azerbaijani government went back on its promise to offer unrestricted access to all prisons subject to torture allegations.