Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rival Afghan presidential candidates reach deal at last

Rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani were said to be close to a power-sharing agreement back on Tuesday Sept. 16 but talks stalled in part because the two could not agree when the results of final vote audit should be released.



Abdullah does not want the results as they now stand made public.Those results are widely thought to show him losing by a considerable margin even though he led by a good margin in the first vote before the runoff. Both Abdullah and Ghani had assured their western backers that they would support a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry. There would be a complete audit of all the votes cast and the formation of a unity government that would see the loser given a new chief executive position.
 The latest report from the Los Angeles Times indicated that the two rival candidates finally reached a deal yesterday September 19 on the formation of a unity government, even though they still have divisions over the final results. The two candidates also had difficulties defining the powers of the new post of chief executive. The reports of an agreement may be a bit premature since aides to both Ghani and Abdullah claimed that the two had not yet agreed on the result of the audit of the all 8 million votes cast in the June runoff. Abdullah claims that massive fraud allowed Ghani to win.
 The Afghan Independent Election Commission is set to announce the results of the election on Saturday afternoon according to one source but the next day Sunday according to another. Ghani is expected to win by a comfortable margin.
Not only Abdullah, but Ghani also had objections to some aspects of a proposed agreement which would see the president along with the chief executive together form the government. Ghani said that this would remove powers from the president granted by the Afghan constitution.
No matter who wins the presidency both rivals have promised that they would sign a bilateral security agreement with the US that has already been passed by the Afghan parliament. It would allow the US to keep up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the present agreement ends at the end of 2014. The US is anxious to have the agreement signed as soon as possible. Abdulllah Abdullah represents northern groups and power brokers while Ghani has the support of many in the Pashtun majority in the south and east of Pakistan. Ghani is a former World Bank official and finance minister and has the support of Karzai. Abdullah is a former foreign minister.
There has been enormous pressure from the US and others for a deal to be made. Even if Abdullah agrees to a deal, some of his supporters may not accept the results of the audit assuming Abdullah is the loser. However, Nasrullah Arsalai, an Abdullah campaign manager said both rivals need to compromise: They need to be responsible, act responsibly. This is not about Dr. Ghani and Dr. Abdullah. This is about Afghanistan. This is about the interest of our allies. This is about all the efforts of these 13 years. This is all about the sacrifices of Afghans and our allies have made. For that reason they need to be responsible."