Ghani elections

Two Winners Have Emerged in Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday finally declared the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani as winner of the presidential election held in September last year. But Ghani’s opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, rejected the results, claiming to have won the election himself and announcing his plan to form a government with support from his allies.

More Political Turmoil on the Horizon for Afghanistan?

The disagreement over the results between the top two Afghan political leaders have raised fears of political turmoil in the country that could affect the United States-Taliban peace deal, and the inter-Afghan dialogue following the aftermath of US troops withdrawing from Afghanistan.

The United States and the Taliban, after two-year long negotiations, have finally come close to an agreement over the ceasefire that could end Washington’s longest war in history. But this week’s election results may disrupt the prospect of a US exit from the region as both sides stand in the way of a political settlement to form an agreement over forming a government.

Details of the Afghan Election

The Afghan election, held last month, has been marred by one controversy after another, and the major theme of which has been around interference.The IEC-declared winner, Ashraf Ghani, has secured a 50.6 per cent share of the vote — just enough to avoid another round of elections. But throughout the voting and counting process, Abdullah Abdullah has blamed the bureaucracy under Ghani’s administration of doing all they could to shift the results in his favor.

Abdullah, who got a 39.52 per cent vote share, also rejected the IEC’s announcement. He declared himself as the winner of the election and said he would form a government with his allies.

In a news conference following the announcement, he said “the result they (IEC) announced today was a result of election robbery, a coup against democracy, a betrayal of the will of the people, and we consider it illegal.” On the other hand, the US is yet to issue any statement on the election results, raising doubts over Ghani’s win and his ability to form a government.

Political Divisions in Afghanistan Likely to Worsen in Coming Weeks

Moreover, the political bickering among the two candidates is likely to worsen in the coming weeks, casting a shadow on the peace process. More importantly, the political impasse is likely to worsen during the post-US-Taliban agreement scenario which will see an intra-Afghan dialogue discussing the country’s political future. But the prospects of a smooth transition from the battlefield to peace seem slim.

In addition to the infighting, the one absent political player — the Taliban — have also rejected the IEC’s results, terming Ghani’s appointment as going against the spirit of the peace process. The militants have refused to talk to Ghani in the past and have not allowed the Afghan Government to be party to a peace agreement with the US.

The Taliban have called Ghani a US puppet and have questioned his ability to run the country. In a post-peace agreement scenario, when the Taliban resume their political activities in the war-torn country, the spat between Ghani and Abdullah is likely to allow them to establish a strong foothold in Afghanistan and position themselves as a viable political alternate.