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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, July 19, 2018

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Abdullah Abdullah refuses to accept UN-led vote audit

An audit of 100 percent of the ballots cast in the June runoff election is expected to conclude

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KABUL Afghanistan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has refused to accept the results of a UN-led vote audit aimed at clarifying who won the country's June 14 runoff election, bringing the country's electoral process to the brink.

Abdullah, one of two contenders for Afghanistan's presidency, insisted that he had won the disputed vote and vowed to reject any government formed on the basis of it.

An audit of 100 percent of the ballots cast in the June runoff election is expected to conclude this week, and nearly all observers expect Abdullah's opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to be declared the winner.

But Abdullah said he believes he won both times that Afghans voted this year in April and again in the June runoff. He has accused election authorities of giving the win to his opponent, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

After a final unsuccessful round of discussions with Ghani to strike a power-sharing deal, Abdullah said the audit process had failed to explain an extra 1 million votes cast in the second round of elections.

"The future of a stable Afghanistan could not be based on the foundation of fraud or fraudulent government," Abdullah, former Afghan foreign minister, said.

He said Afghanistan would not be "a viable partner with the international community" and that it already had suffered "for acceptance of fraudulent outcome of 2009 elections."

The bitter stalemate over alleged fraud in the June 14 runoff has raised fears of renewed ethnic violence as the 13-year international military effort winds down.

"We were the winner of the elections, we are the winner of elections based on the real and clean votes of the people," Abdullah said in a speech.

"We do not accept fraudulent election results, and we will not accept a fraudulent government for a day."

Abdullah's outburst came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned him and Ghani, urging them to agree on a national unity government as soon as possible.

Though Abdullah would not reveal details of the conversation, he said, "Obama reiterated the commitment of the United States, once this government is formed, in supporting Afghanistan."

Abdullah accused the government and national electoral institutions of being part of what he alleged was an "industrial-scale fraud" in the runoff vote to help his opponent win the race.

He also criticized the UN-supervised audit as a "flawed" process of invalidating suspicious ballots, saying his campaign's concerns and complaints went unheeded.

Abdullah said he would consult the Afghan people before taking his next step. He didn't explain how he'd consult them.

The former foreign minister was the runner-up to President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 presidential election. He did not say what concrete steps he will take if Ghani is declared the winner. And although he said talks over forming a national unity government were deadlocked, he did not rule out resuming them.

He had led the first round of presidential election in April, but preliminary results of the June runoff put former finance minister Ghani ahead of him by a million votes.

Both sides alleged election fraud and Abdullah threatened to form a parallel government. The political crisis prompted the United Nations and Washington to intervene and persuaded the presidential rivals to agree on a comprehensive vote audit.

Members of the Ghani camp have expressed concern but said they were still willing to negotiate.

"We are surprised and worried about the position he took today, which is against all the commitments that he made," said Zaher Zuhair, a spokesman for Ghani.

Nonetheless, he said, "our position is that the door to negotiations should be kept open so we can resolve our electoral problems through dialogue."> BNN

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