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Afghan Election Audit to Take Three Weeks

by AFP
Shah Marai—AFP

Shah Marai—AFP

Rival presidential candidates agreed to recheck of votes after U.S. intervention.

The audit of Afghanistan’s disputed presidential poll will take three weeks, the head of the country’s election commission said on Sunday after the two rival candidates agreed to the vote checking.

“In order for this audit to be conducted on time, the Independent Election Commission is planning to form 100 teams that will review 1,000 ballot boxes every day. The audit will end in three weeks,” commission chairman Yusuf Nuristani told a press conference in Kabul.

The estimate comes after presidential rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani agreed to an audit of all eight million votes cast in the disputed run-off election, following two days of intense shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Nuristani said the audit results “should be accepted by both presidential candidates as agreed” and that the check would be conducted in the presence of representatives from both sides and national and international observers.

Shortly after the second round run-off on June 14, Abdullah claimed massive fraud had robbed him of victory and boycotted the process by withdrawing his team’s observers.

The head of the U.N. mission to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, welcomed the agreement and the return of Abdullah’s team. “A large number of people will process hundreds and hundreds of ballot boxes every day, working in shifts to be able to quickly finish the audit,” Kubis said.

The process will be carried out in Kabul, where ballot boxes from across the country are heading under tight security provided by NATO forces. The audit agreement was signed on Saturday after two days of intense negotiations between Afghan officials and the two candidates conducted by Kerry.

Washington, having learnt its lesson from previous votes in Iraq, feared violence if the two candidates did not reach an agreement. The bitter impasse over the run-off vote to succeed President Hamid Karzai had plunged Afghanistan into crisis and raised fears of a return to the ethnic violence of the 1990s.

Ghani is supported by the Pashtun tribes of the south and east while Abdullah, despite his Pashtun father, draws his support from Tajiks and other northern Afghan groups.

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