Abdullah rejoins Afghanistan election audit

Photo: Abdullah rejoins Afghanistan election audit / Politics

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has agreed to rejoin an audit of the votes cast in the country's first democratic transition of power. Allegations of cheating have overshadowed the process, Deutsche Welle reported.

The process to recount Afghanistan's runoff election restarted on Sunday after a weeklong delay. The recount, however, restarted without the team of auditors representing the candidate and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who had initially boycotted the process, accusing his rival and several officials of vote-rigging. However, after another day of intense discussions, his team agreed to resume work on Monday.

Under a deal brokered by the United States, and with UN supervision, officials have begun an audit of the 8 million ballots cast in June's second round of the election. Results from early counting, halted by previous allegations by Abdullah of vote-rigging, showed Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank economist, leading with a substantial majority. For the recount, Abdullah and Ghani have disagreed on various technicalities such as how to disqualify votes.

On Sunday, US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham told reporters that he remained hopeful that officials could reach an outcome in the coming weeks and name the new president by the end of the month. The previous schedule had Afghanistan swearing its new president in this weekend.

'Against electoral mechanisms'?

Meanwhile, Abdullah's supporters released a recording on Sunday in which Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili allegedly encourages vote-rigging in favor of Ghani - who, according to initial counts, is the election's winner.

Release Sunday, the recording is the most recent evidence put forth by Abdullah's campaign of high-level collusion in an effort to ensure that Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank economist, would win the runoff election, held in June.

In the recording of a purported address to close political associates before the June 14 runoff, the speaker says that "the election outcome must turn in favor of this team ... even if these means are against electoral mechanisms." The speaker refers to Ghani and adds that "I am aware that in all efforts within the government and within the electoral commissions and with his Excellency, the President of Afghanistan, there exists an agreeable perception of the victory of this team and this candidate."

Abdullah's team did not say where it had obtained the recording, or when the alleged speech had happened. Khalili's and Ghani's staffs have dismissed the recording as a fraud in its own right, and the office of departing President Hamid Karzai had no immediate comment.

"The audio is completely fake ..." said Abbas Basir, chief of staff for the vice president. "Khalili does not speak like that." He claimed that someone had mainpulated the recording: "edited with part of his voice, mixed with other fake voices."

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