Ashraf Ghani accepts audit in Afghan presidential election

Ashraf Ghani, one of the two contenders disputing the Afghan presidential election, on Friday accepted an audit of 43 percent of the votes amid fraud allegations made by his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who was trailing him. Ghani’s spokesperson Daoud Sultanzoy told Efe news agency they had accepted the audit of ‘3.4 million votes, that is almost half of the total votes’ cast in the 14 June election, a review process that should be ‘intensive and broad’.

The demand to review the votes in some 8,000 polling stations was made by Abdullah through the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), that is playing a major mediating role in the crisis, said Sultanzoy. Ghani’s spokesperson also said outgoing President Hamid Karzai approved the ballot review, which came as US Secretary Of State John Kerry arrived in Kabul. As the top US diplomat met separately with the rival candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Kerry stressed that results released Monday showing Ghani in the lead were ‘preliminary’. ‘They are neither authoritative nor final, and no-one should be stating a victory at this point in time,’ Kerry said, as he held back-to-back meetings in the heavily-fortified US embassy.

‘We want a unified, stable, democratic Afghanistan. It is important that whoever is president is recognised by the people as having become president through a legitimate process,’ he said.
The next government should be one that ‘can unify’ the people and ‘lead in the future,’ Kerry said.
Kerry held meetings on Friday with the UN representative in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, Karzai and Ghani, and was also scheduled to meet Abdullah at his residence in Kabul.

‘Kerry comes to Afghanistan to fully understand the situation in the country and the electoral process, but he will only play an advisory role and it will be the responsibility of the Afghans to find a solution,’ a member of Abdullah’s team, Agha Sangcharaki, said Thursday. The US had warned this week that it would stop its assistance to Afghanistan if a parallel government was formed by Abdullah, who rejected the election result that showed Ghani leading with 56.4 percent of the ballots.
US President Barack Obama called Abdullah last Monday and warned that aid to Afghanistan was at stake if Washington detected ‘violence or extra-constitutional measures’ to gain power. The election process coincides with one of the bloodiest moments in the Afghan conflict since the US invasion that led to the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force will conclude its mission at the end of this year, but the US has announced that it would maintain around 9,800 soldiers in the country until 2016. Ashraf Ghani had joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asia through the mid-1990s.
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