Abdullah sees opportunity in Afghan poll results delay

KABUL: Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday welcomed a delay in the election result, saying it should allow time for an audit into “industrial-scale” fraud as the country enters a risky political stalemate.
Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power has been in turmoil since Abdullah boycotted the vote count after the June 14 election, accusing his rival Ashraf Ghani, outgoing President Hamid Karzai and election authorities of fraud.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said preliminary results due out on Wednesday would be delayed for several days, as some ballot boxes would be checked in an effort “to make sure of transparency”.
“Now there is a time, there is a space, because of the delay,” Abdullah told AFP in an interview at his heavily fortified residence in Kabul.
“We are talking about measures that would be more robust, vigorous auditing, that would take care of the fraudulent ballot papers.
“Almost everybody now agrees there has been industrial-scale fraud... The outcome will not be considered legitimate if that is not being taken care of.”
Abdullah cried foul after the head-to-head vote last month as reports of early results put Ghani far ahead in a sharp turnaround from the first-round election in which eight candidates ran.
“We are at the beginning of the process of entering negotiations on how to clean (up) the fraudulent situation,” Abdullah said, raising the possibility of a prolonged deadlock as US-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan this year.
“If we claim there is fraud and if the other side claim there is fraud, why not join hands... so the fraud is being taken care of? That is a win-win situation,” he said.
The inauguration is scheduled for August 2, but the delayed results and Abdullah’s call for a full anti-fraud audit could open months of arguments before a winner is declared.
President Karzai, the IEC and the United Nations have all stressed the importance of sticking to the election timetable ahead of the NATO combat mission ending in December after 13 years of fighting the Taliban.
Abdullah’s supporters took to streets last week to protest against alleged fraud, and the UN has expressed concern about civil unrest and mounting ethnic tension.
Abdullah said his supporters had proved they would remain peaceful.
“There were demonstrations of tens of thousands of people and it was all peaceful, nothing happened, no sign of violence no effort or attempt at violence,” he said. 

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