Abdullah threatens to back out of Afghanistan election

KABUL - The campaign team of Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for the presidency of Afghanistan, has issued a 24-hour notice to the United Nations and international observers that if changes are not made to the processes of the ongoing audit of all eight million votes cast in the second round of the election, they will back out of the election process entirely.

"We will give one day to the international community to review and assure that the vote auditing and the political negotiations are moving forward properly," Abdullah Abdullah spokesman Syed Fazel Sancharaki said. The warning came a week after the team of Reform and Partnership, as Abdullah’s campaigners refer to themselves, backed out of the audit claiming their concerns about widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff were ignored by the United Nations.

"From the beginning we were willing to join the audit because we thought it would lead to the separation of clean and fraudulent votes. That's what we were working towards," Muslim Saadat, a spokesman for the Abdullah Abdullah campaign told The Times last week, after the Reform and Partnership team backed out of the audit. If followed through, Monday's warning would mark the fourth and presumably final time the Reform and Partnership team has backed out of the election process since the second round in June.

What sets Monday's threat apart from prior boycotts is that for the first time since Abdullah and Ghani first pledged to form a government of national unity per the audit result, the Reform and Partnership team has threatened to walk away from the political process that was intended to be carried out in parallel with the technical process. Sancharaki said his team would "form a national unity government only when all the results are finalised" and fraudulent votes are separated from clean ones.

The threat of backing out from the political negotiations is seen as a formidable shift among the Abdullah camp. On sheets where there were signatures by Abdullah’s campaign observers, a representative from the Reform and Partnership team said votes for Dr Abdullah were entirely absent. "That means the Abdullah team observer could sign, but not vote," the representative said.


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