Afghans take to streets over recount of votes
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.