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Afghan official: election results might be delayed

Wednesday - 7/2/2014, 12:41am  ET

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 10, 2014 file photo, Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah greets supporters at an election campaign rally in Ghor province, Afghanistan. The planned release of preliminary results from the runoff vote in Afghanistan's presidential election will probably be postponed, a spokesman said Tuesday, a move that comes as officials struggle to resolve an impasse over fraud allegations. Abdullah Abdullah, one of the two candidates vying to replace President Hamid Karzai, has warned he would boycott the results as he claims that supporters of his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai engineered fraud in the June 14 balloting. (AP Photo/Omar Sobhani, Pool, File)

RAHIM FAIEZ
Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The planned release of preliminary results from the runoff vote in Afghanistan's presidential election will probably be postponed, a spokesman said Tuesday, a move that comes as officials struggle to resolve an impasse over fraud allegations.

Abdullah Abdullah, one of the two candidates vying to replace President Hamid Karzai, has warned he would boycott the results as he claims that supporters of his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai engineered fraud in the June 14 balloting.

The crisis has undermined Western hopes for a smooth transfer of power ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of this year. Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counterterrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalizing that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

According to the official timetable, initial results are due Wednesday and final results are due on July 22, with the inauguration date for the new president scheduled for Aug. 2.

Abdullah won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, but he says his campaign monitors recorded widespread ballot box stuffing and other efforts to rig the vote in Ahmadzai's favor. He wants a new vote to be held in five provinces where the bulk of the fraud allegations were made.

His campaign said it would welcome a decision by the Independent Election Commission to delay the results.

"It's a good decision to delay the results until they find a good mechanism to separate the clean votes from the fraudulent ones," Abdullah's spokesman Fazel Sangcharaki said. "If the IEC announces the preliminary results, it will suffer the consequences and the anger of our supporters. We can't stop the rage of the people."

Ahmadzai's campaign has denied any involvement in fraud and said it also registered complaints about irregularities but would respect the constitutional process.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also earlier called on Abdullah to rejoin the process and demanded that the commission stick to the official timetable.

A spokesman for his campaign, Abbas Noyan, expressed concern about the delay but stressed "the announcement date of the final results remains unchanged."

"Our position on the election timetable stands," he said.

The spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, Noor Mohammad Noor, said Tuesday that the panel is considering a possible postponement of the announcement because it still needs to audit results from 1,930 polling stations in 30 of 34 provinces. There were 23,000 polling stations nationwide.

"There are 1,930 polling stations in 30 provinces that still need to be audited and that will take time," he said in a telephone interview. He said the audits were focusing on polling stations where massive ballot box stuffing was reported.

The election commission was holding meetings to discuss the issue, officials said.

In Washington, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf called on both sides to keep working to resolve the impasse.

"So what we've said is throughout this process, we want both sides to remain engaged with it, to be talking to the electoral institutions to help work this out. We know it may take some time, though," Harf said.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has invited more than 40 world leaders and a number of international organizations to participate in the Aug. 2 inauguration, according to ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mustaghni.

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Associated Press writer Lara Jakes contributed to the report from Washington, D.C.


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