Newspaper article International New York Times

Deal to Share Power in Afghanistan Is Reached ; after Long Audit Financed by U.S., Commission Withholds Vote Totals

Newspaper article International New York Times

Deal to Share Power in Afghanistan Is Reached ; after Long Audit Financed by U.S., Commission Withholds Vote Totals

Article excerpt

The American-brokered agreement would make Ashraf Ghani president, and the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, effectively a prime minister.

Afghanistan's election commission on Sunday declared Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country's presidential election, but it would not announce the vote totals, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government.

Earlier in the day, the two candidates, Mr. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, signed an agreement brokered by the United States to share power, giving Mr. Abdullah substantial powers in what is in effect the post of prime minister.

The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step that led to the signing. On Saturday, Mr. Abdullah's aides said he would refuse to agree to the deal unless the vote totals were kept secret, since he regards the election as heavily tainted by fraud.

Critics of the Independent Election Commission said it had been pressured by the international community to withhold the results in order to get Mr. Abdullah back on board with the agreement.

Advocates for democracy were aghast at the whole process, while American diplomats hailed it as Afghanistan's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.

"Many people risked their lives to vote, some lost their lives, and this is a very bad precedent; to persuade people to come back and vote again will be very hard," said Nader Nadery, the chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan.

But an American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the result "absolutely" could be called democratic and that "the process was in accordance to the electoral law."

Halim Fadai, who was in charge of the observer team for Mr. Ghani, denounced the suppression of the vote totals. "The international community gives out democracy slogans while putting nails in the coffin of democracy of Afghanistan," Mr. Fadai said.

The two candidates met at the Presidential Palace with President Hamid Karzai and their supporters, quickly signed their two copies of the four-page agreement and then briefly hugged each other, to tepid applause from the audience.

In a brief speech, Mr. Karzai thanked them, and the event was over in 10 minutes. That was in sharp contrast to the protracted election process that began in February, ran through two elections and involved a long and controversial audit, which the United Nations called the most exhaustive it had overseen.

The candidates' signatures on the deal forming a power-sharing government came five hours before the election commission announced the winner. While the commission chairman, Mohammad Yousef Nuristani, announced that the votes of 1,260 polling stations out of 23,000 were invalidated, he did not give the total vote count, nor did he say how many votes were judged valid for each candidate. …

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