Afghans take to streets over re­count of votes

The National - News - - WORLD NEWS -

HIKMAT NOORI AND RUCHI KU­MAR Kabul

Thou­sands of people gathered in Kabul on Fri­day to protest about the re­count of votes in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion held on Septem­ber 28.

Most of the demon­stra­tors were sup­port­ers of Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah, the coun­try’s chief ex­ec­u­tive and one of the leading can­di­dates, but there were also many sup­port­ers of other can­di­dates who have boy­cotted the re­count.

“We voted de­spite so many chal­lenges and se­cu­rity threats, and we are here to de­fend our votes,” Haji Ai­mal Jalali, a 28-year-old pro­tester from Kabul, told The Na­tional.

“We are here to bury the people who are be­hind elec­tion fraud.”

Mr Jalali was tak­ing part in the protest in the north of the cap­i­tal and march­ing with a crowd of nearly 1,000 people to Pash­tunistan Square in cen­tral Kabul.

Marches from around the city con­verged at the square.

While some pro­test­ers car­ried guns, the demon­stra­tions were peace­ful.

Elec­tions ob­servers from Mr Ab­dul­lah’s team, called the Sta­bil­ity and Con­ver­gence cam­paign, claimed that as many as 300,000 votes were fraud­u­lent and called for them to be de­clared in­valid be­fore a re­count.

Afghanista­n’s In­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion has al­ready re­jected nearly a mil­lion votes over ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, leav­ing only about 1.8 mil­lion votes from a to­tal of 9.6 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers.

The com­mis­sion has post­poned the an­nounce­ment of the elec­tion re­sults sev­eral times al­ready, cit­ing tech­ni­cal is­sues and the need for trans­parency.

“We are out here ask­ing for jus­tice from IEC,” said Ma­lik Gul Rabi, 40, a sup­porter of Mr Ab­dul­lah.

“I voted and I will de­fend our votes for as long as I am alive. We will not let the fraud­u­lent people lead this coun­try.”

Mr Rabi trav­elled from his home in Kapisa prov­ince, about 50 kilo­me­tres north-east of Kabul, to join the ral­lies.

“We want the win­ner of the elec­tion to be the pres­i­dent of this coun­try and that per­son is Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah. We don’t want an­other NUG,” he said, re­fer­ring to the US-bro­kered Na­tional Unity Gov­ern­ment set up af­ter a sim­i­lar dis­pute over the re­sults of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion five years ago.

Mr Ab­dul­lah and Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani ac­cused each other of fraud in the 2014 bal­lot, leading to a dead­lock de­spite two rounds of vot­ing.

With the sur­prise visit to Afghanista­n by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day night, spec­u­la­tion over the out­come of the elec­tion is rife.

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