Fraud Charges Fly as Afghanistan Awaits Presidential Winner

Afghanistan-Election-Day.jpgIt won't be until late July when Afghanistan's 30 million residents learn who their new President will be for the next five years. That's because the vote count of the June 14 runoff between former foreign affairs minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani is on hold.
Both candidates charge each other with widespread voter fraud.  Ghani was reported to have been ahead of Abdullah by one million votes at one period in the voting. An estimated seven million voters out of a total 12 million eligible voters participated in the violence-ridden voting June 14.
This is the third Presidential election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The winning candidate will replace Hamid Karzai who has been President since 2004. Afghanistan's constitution bars him from seeking a third five-year term. Both candidates have been close to Karzai over the past 10 years, a sign that some see Karzai's influence continuing even with a new face as head of the government.
Curiously, both candidates have said they will cooperate with the U.S. on near-future military issues, even though Karzai is adamant on insisting all U.S. forces leave Afghanistan by at least 2016.
The U.S. and other Western countries are monitoring the voting closely as they have invested heavily in trying to reconstruct the rebel-ravaged country. The U.S. alone is providing $1.12 billion in economic and military aid to Afghanistan this year.
The Presidential election has been going on in Afghanistan since April 25. At that time, Abdullah was reported to have had a 45 percent to 32 percent lead over Ghani. Abdullah's supporters maintain it is not conceivable that Ghani has rallied to such a large lead over Abdullah in just two months.
The voting was predictably marred by waves of violence. Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said 10 Afghan soldiers, 14 civilians and 19 insurgents were killed in 150 anti-government attacks throughout the country. Salangi said more than 60 Afghan troops, 41 civilians and 10 insurgents were seriously injured.
The voter fraud charges by the two candidates remind some observers of similar charges leveled at Karzai during the also tense 2009 Presidential election. At that time, Karzai defeated Abdullah by an alleged 1.2 million ballots --- ballots that were later thrown out as fraudulent.
Abdullah, however, conceded defeat after pressure from his own party and the U.S. in the hope his stepping aside would lead to a better balanced government. 

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