Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has called for a halt to the recounting of presidential election ballots, saying he will not recognize the results of the “fraud-marred” voting.
“A fraud-marred election will not be accepted. The result should be based on the clean votes of our people,” Abdullah said at a rally of his supporters in Kabul on Sunday.
Afghanistan’s September 28 presidential race was between Abdullah and his rival, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani.
Abdullah, who unsuccessfully ran in the previous two presidential elections and is fighting for his political future, has repeatedly raised questions about the validity of hundreds of thousands of votes.
The election was meant to be the cleanest in Afghanistan’s young democracy, with a German firm supplying biometric machines that were supposed to stop people from voting more than once.
The turnout has been unofficially estimated at a little over two million.
Nearly a million of the initial votes were purged owing to irregularities, and about 300,000 more votes had problems, with only about 1.8 million valid votes from a total of 9.6 million registered voters in a population of around 37 million people.
Abdullah claimed that one of the problems was that the photos attached to some ballots had been taken from fake identity cards.
He said his observers would be boycotting the recount.
“The recounting should be stopped. We are trying to save the process from fraudsters,” he said.
The results from the poll were initially scheduled to be released on October 19, but the announcement was delayed twice — with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials citing various technical problems.
A new date has been set for Thursday, but officials have hinted that announcement may be pushed back as well.
Abdullah previously claimed victory against Ghani believing he secured the most votes, before agreeing to wait for the recount and “absolutely” respecting the results if the process was proved to be fair and transparent.
He is seeking the presidency for the third time, after losing in 2009 and 2014.
The ongoing uncertainty raises the possibility that the country may head for a repeat of the power crisis that followed the last presidential election, in 2014. Then, Ghani and Abdullah fought a close and angry race that sparked widespread allegations of fraud and saw the United States step in to broker an awkward power-sharing agreement between the rivals under a unity government.