SHAFAQNA – Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said the final results of the country’s disputed presidential election will be announced on September 21 following a weeks-long audit for fraudulent votes. Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on September 20 that the “IEC will officially announce the final result of the presidential election tomorrow.” The announcement comes as last-minute talks between candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah continue on a U.S.-brokered power-sharing deal that would divide responsibilities between the president and the newly created office of chief executive. The talks have been dragging on for weeks.
Mujib Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, said the two candidates were prepared to sign a “final deal” on September 20. “The IEC is not supposed to announce the final results before the agreement is finalized,” Rahimi said. Ballots were first cast in April and again in a June runoff, but no winner has been decided amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud. The UN-sponsored audit of the millions of votes was carried out but the results have not been publicly announced. Both Ghani and Abdullah claim to have won the election, and the United Nations and the United States have pushed for a “national unity government” to try to avoid violence and ethnic divisions. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah won the first round of voting in April but did not get enough votes to avoid a runoff. According to preliminary count, former Finance Minister Ghani took the second round.
U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham brokered talks between Abdullah and Ghani on September 18, a day after negotiations on forming the unity government stalled in a dispute over when and how to release the final election results. Rahimi said late on September 17 that Abdullah would quit talks on a unity government if the audit results were released before the candidates reached a deal. Rahimi also said Abdullah wants the auditors to invalidate more of the ballots cast for Ghani. Ghani rejected that demand.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan