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Doubts raised on whether new Afghan president can be sworn in on Sept 2

KABUL: There are some doubts raised by some quarters here as to whether the new Afghan president can be sworn in on Sept 2 as earlier announced by outgoing President Hamid Karzai.  
A statement released by Presidential Office on Saturday said that President Karzai, during a meeting with UN Secretary General special envoy for Afghanistan Jan Kubis, categorically said that the new president would be sworn in on Sept. 2, just five days from today.
If this happens, this would be the first ever peaceful transfer of power in the strife-torn country.
But Karzai made announcement while the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was still busy with the complex process of auditing the votes cast in the runoff elections held on June 14, prompting some observers to say that the final result may not be available by the date set.
“I don’t think that the election commission will be able to complete the auditing process and announce the result in just eight days,” former parliamentarian, Saleh Registani, said in talks with the local media last Sept. 25.
“Eight days is too short for the election commission to complete votes auditing and announce the election result,” Registani said.
The presidential elections was held on April 5 this year and since none of the eight candidates had won more than 50 percent of the votes, two leading candidates — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai— went for runoff on June 14 but the result has yet to be announced.
The Afghan IEC on Monday began the invalidation process of more than 8 million ballots cast in the runoff as the audit process of all votes continues.
“So far, the election commission has audited 16,364 ballot boxes out of total 22,828 ballot boxes or around 72 percent of all ballot boxes or polling stations,” Abdul Rahman Hotaki, deputy chairman of the election commission, said in a press conference on Monday.
The audit process of the votes cast in June 14 runoff began on July 17 during which the IEC chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani promised to complete the process within three to four weeks. “The IEC 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 said.
Since the start of the vote audit on July 17, only 72 percent of the ballot boxes has been audited. Political analysts here said it would be impossible for the IEC to finish the auditing process within a week.
Meanwhile, Fazal Ahmad Manawi, a senior official with Abdullah’ s election monitoring team, objected the ballot invalidation process Tuesday, warning his team won’t attend the auditing process if their demand for ensuring transparency is not given due course.
Abdullah and Ahmadzai have pledged to abide by the final result of the vote audit and in the formation of a unity government after that. As earlier agreed, the candidate who will win in the runoff will become the president and the loser will become the prime minister.

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