Afghanistan starts ballot invalidation

KABUL: Afghan election commission on Monday began the invalidation process of ballot cast in the presidential runoff election held on June 14, as the audit process of all votes continues.
The invalidation process started amid call by Afghans from all walks of life including the president of the country for the early announcement of the election results.
President Hamid Karzai who previously had set August 2 for his successor’s inauguration ceremony at the request of both presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai had set September 2 for presidential inauguration, is determined not to extend the date and hand over power to new president on September 2 this year.
“So far, the election commission has audited 16,364 ballot boxes out of total 22, 828 ballot boxes, around 72 percent of all ballot boxes or polling stations,” deputy chairman of the election commission, Abdul Rahman Hotaki said at a press conference here.
The audit process of the votes, cast in June 14 Afghan presidential runoff began on July 17 during which the election commission chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani promised to complete the process within three to four weeks.
“The IEC (Independent Election Commission) commissioners made their decisions after having reviewed audit findings, as recorded on checklist forms. About 3, 645 polling stations had been reviewed by the IEC till today— Monday. A total of 2,876 ballot boxes were normal. The IEC conducted recount of 697 ballot boxes, and 72 ballot boxes or polling stations were invalidated,” Hotaki added.
Afghan presidential runoff was held on June 14 between the two front runners Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah wherein more than eight million people according to the election commission had used their right of suffrage.
Preliminary results showed that Ghani was in lead. However, Abdullah refused to accept the preliminary result and accused the election commissions of committing fraud and demanded a vote recount.
US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered an agreement between the two Afghan presidential candidates on July 12, breaking the election deadlock and paving the way for the formation of a national unity government in the ethnically-divided country.
The two runners agreed for audit of 100 percent of more than eight million votes cast in the runoff elections.
Under the agreement, the candidate who secures the majority of the votes in the audit process would become the country’s president, and his opponent would serve as chief executive, which is tantamount to the position of a prime minister.
Meantime, a statement released by Presidential Office on Saturday said that President Hamid Karzai, during meeting with U.N. Secretary General special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis, categorically stated that September 2 as the deadline for swearing- in ceremony of new president is unchangeable and the oath taking ceremony for his successor should be held on September 2.

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