Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai won Afghanistan's presidential election, according to preliminary results Monday, but fraud allegations are set to spark a dispute over the outcome and stoke concerns of instability.
Ghani won 56.4 per cent of the run-off vote to ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah's 43.5 per cent, a major comeback for Ghani after the first-round election in April when eight men stood to succeed President Hamid Karzai.
Officials said the turnout was more than eight million in the June 14 vote out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters, far higher than expected, and a figure likely to fuel weeks of arguments about fraud from both sides.
The next president will lead Afghanistan at a pivotal time as US-led troops end their 13-year war against Taliban insurgents and the fragile economy struggles with declining international aid.
“We can not deny fraud and violations in the process,” Independent Election Commission (IEC) head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters.
“In some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like the governors or lower-level officials were involved. “Nuristani emphasised that the results would now be subject to auditing and adjudication of complaints, before the official result released on about July 24.
“The preliminary result in no way means the announcement of the winner of the election,” he said.
“After addressing all the complaints, the objections and the inspections, a change in the result is possible. “Last-minute talks delayed the results by nearly five hours on Monday, as the two campaigns tried to thrash out a deal over the fraud allegations that could yet derail Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power.
Abdullah has vowed to reject the preliminary result, alleging he was the victim of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing, while Ghani has said he won fairly.
The following are significant points regarding the future of Afghanistan:
1. The complaints and fraud allegations will have to be investigated. The solution of this crisis will depend on the fairness and neutrality of the investigation commission. It is encouraging that the first steps towards a democratic order have been taken. To preserve and sustain the political system means that the voice of the Afghan people is being respected.
2. On a social and political level, the people will develop a sense of participation. Their political representatives will be responsible to resolve problems faced by the constituents. No matter how fragile and susceptible to collapse the system may be, it is important that people have participated in the elections.
3. On the foreign policy front the new government after installation, should focus on strengthening bilateral relations with immediate neighbors like Iran, Pakistan and China. With the United States, the new government should consider signing the security protocol, which would allow the presence of 10,000 U.S. military troops in the capacity of trainers and advisors to the Afghan government. The presence of American troops in the backdrop of a complete withdrawal in December 2014, will help to sustain stability in the region. It should be remembered that the United States has played a major role in establishment of a democratic order in Afghanistan.
4. Regional countries like Pakistan, Iran, China and India have a responsibility towards the new government. They should join hands to help Afghanistan sustain the democratic system through political, moral and diplomatic support. Economic and political stability in Afghanistan will be gradual but will open up opportunities for foreign investment on a bilateral basis. Trade and commerce across the borders will mean development in infrastructure and communications; it will also generate employment opportunities for the people of Afghanistan.
The vision of a strong and secure Afghanistan will only be realized through consistent steps by the new government. The democratic elections are an opportunity for this country to show that it can establish peace with its neighbors and muster international support as a progressive country. It must pursue the principals of cooperation, respect and mutual co-existence with its neighbors and the international community in general. Once its potential is realized, countries like the United States and European Union will be more inclined to assist because their security is directly related to Afghanistan and establishment of peace in South Asia.
Sources: Dawn News July 7, 2014