Rival Afghan presidential candidates sign deal to cooperate

KABUL: Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates have signed a deal to cooperate on the formation of a government of national unity, both candidates told a news conference following meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.
A joint declaration that both of the candidates signed, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, did not provide details on the government’s framework, except to say that both sides would form commissions to work on its structure.
The power sharing deal, agreed verbally during Kerry’s last visit to Afghanistan a month ago, was intended to pull the country back from war along ethnic lines after both candidates claimed victory in an election marred by widespread fraud. “One of these men is going to be president but both are going to be critical to the future of Afghanistan no matter what,” Kerry told reporters in Kabul.
The two candidates, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah stood by Kerry as he spoke. The joint-declaration stated the candidates would agree to a timeline for the electoral process and inauguration date for the next president by the end of August. Afghanistan’s Western backers hope an audit of votes will produce a legitimate president before a NATO summit in early September.
The United Nations is supervising a full recount of all eight million votes cast in a June run-off vote, as agreed during Kerry’s last visit to Afghanistan a month ago. “This audit is not about winning and losing, it is about achieving a credible result that people of Afghanistan deserve,” Kerry added. The election was to mark Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power before most foreign troops pull out at the end of 2014. reuters
Some 7 million Afghans out of around 12 million eligible to vote had used their right for suffrage on April 5 presidential elections wherein Abdullah and Ghani emerged as front-runners with bagging 45 percent and 31.6 percent of the votes respectively paving the way for runoff. In the runoff contest, the turnout, according to chairman election commission Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, was more than 8 million. Abdullah who bagged majority of the votes in the first round fell down by securing 43.56 percent against his rival Ghani Ahmadzai who garnered 56.44 percent in the preliminary result.
Reacting sharply to the preliminary result, Abdullah has accused the election commission of committing fraud and siding with Ghani Ahmadzai, saying no decision of the election body is acceptable unless and until all genuine votes are filtered from the fake ones. He threatened to form a parallel government if his demands were not met. It took U.S. Secretary John Kerry to convince both Abdullah and Admadzai, after an intense 48-hour talk, to patch up their differences and both agreed to accept the result of the vote recounting and to form a national unity government.
“The widespread fraud committed by the election commission has led to election deadlock but had President Karzai mediated the deal, foreigners would not have been needed,” a former Afghan diplomat and political analyst Ahmad Wali Massoud said. Abdul Shakor, a teacher, said that in India, the election commission was able to count more than 850 million votes and announced the election results within a few days. It remains unknown if the two presidential contenders would indeed abide by their commitment to honor the result of the recounting of votes or renege on their promise to Secretary Kerry.

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