Before Votes Are Fully Counted, Fraud Claims Roil Afghan Election

Jun 19, 2014
Originally published on June 19, 2014 5:12 pm

It was not long before the legitimacy of Afghanistan's presidential election was called into question. Within hours of polls' close, candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed the vote was rigged in favor of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah has suspended his cooperation with elections commissions and called for a halt to vote counting. His claims of fraud — engineered by former President Hamid Karzai, he says — set the stage for an impending political crisis.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. In Afghanistan, charges of election fraud are rattling hopes for the nation's first peaceful transfer of power. Candidate Abdullah Abdullah claims election officials directed by President Hamid Karzai rigged votes to ensure Abdullah's loss. Official results won't be known for another month, and Abdullah now says he won't recognize them.

NPR's Sean Carberry reports this could fuel a political crisis.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Small and so-far-peaceful demonstrations like this one in Kabul are popping up around the country. Roughly a hundred supporters of Abdullah Abdullah are chanting and carrying signs saying, death to fraud and death to the Independent Election Commission.

MOHAMMAD HASHIM RODMARD: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: Twenty-seven-year-old student Mohammad Hashim Rodmard says he organized this demonstration.

RODMARD: (Through translator) We will not stop until we get Abdullah into the presidential palace, and we won't accept anything else.

CARBERRY: The rhetoric here is uncompromising. They say they will defend their votes. There's a lot of talk about spilling blood.

GRAEME SMITH: Unfortunately this is what many had feared.

CARBERRY: Graeme Smith is with the International Crisis Group in Kabul. He says that the hope was for a margin of victory well beyond the level of fraud so that the loser, be it Abdullah or opposing candidate, Ashraf Ghani, would have no choice but to concede peacefully.

SMITH: Ghani has said, actually, victory in this contest will be decided by the loser.

CARBERRY: Abdullah won the first round with 45 percent of the vote to Ghani's 31 percent. Smith says many thought Abdullah would roll to victory in last weekend's runoff. Preliminary results aren't due for another two weeks but...

SMITH: Leaked results suggest that Ghani has pulled ahead in the second round.

CARBERRY: Which has fired up Abdullah, who withdrew from a 2009 runoff election against Karzai because he said the vote was rigged. Abdullah's claiming that in this election, the initial turnout estimate in excess of 7 million voters is wildly inflated.


ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: We all know that the turnout was not as high as it was said. And it was perhaps much less than that.

CARBERRY: And Abdullah says that unofficial vote counts in pro-Ghani provinces are suspiciously out of proportion with population estimates and security conditions. Ghani claims his apparent gains are a result of aggressive campaigning and is calling on Abdullah to respect the electoral process. But some election monitors also say there was extensive fraud in the runoff. Abdullah continues to point the finger at Karzai and says he doesn't trust the Electoral Complaints Commissions to address his allegations.


ABDULLAH: We will not consider these two institutions as legitimate from now onwards.

ABDULLAH AHMADZAI: I do see credibility of the process being questioned.

CARBERRY: Abdullah Ahmadzai is the former head of Afghanistan's elections committee. While he argues Abdullah is making a risky political move to boycott the process, Ahmadzai says the independent election commission does need to be more transparent.


AHMADZAI: I think it's each candidate's right. It's the peoples' right to know the details of the turnout.

CARBERRY: The longer it takes to address Abdullah's complaints, Ahmadzai says, the more the legitimacy of the process suffers. The international community has warned that future support to Afghanistan depends on a successful presidential election.

ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: Abdullah argues this deadlock is the fault of the president and the elections commission. He says he'll determine his next move after the results are announced next month. In the meantime, some of Abdullah's powerful allies are calling for, quote, "civic resistance." Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.