BFF-38 Abdullah claims victory over Ghani in Afghan vote well ahead of results

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AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION-VOTE

Abdullah claims victory over Ghani in Afghan vote well ahead of results

KABUL, Sept 30, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah
Abdullah claimed victory Monday over incumbent Ashraf Ghani in the weekend’s
presidential election, far ahead of the release of any official results.

The move is likely to stir political tensions across Afghanistan and
brings to mind the election Abdullah and his top rival Ghani bitterly
contested in 2014 that sparked a constitutional crisis and prompted US
intervention.

“We have the most votes in this election,” Abdullah said at a news
conference, without giving a basis for his assertion.

“The results will be announced by the IEC (Independent Election
Commission), but we have the most votes. The election is not going to go to a
second round.”

Abdullah’s announcement comes even before the IEC has finished tallying
turnout from Saturday’s election, with hundreds of polling centres still
unreported.

Preliminary results are not due until October 19, and if the leading
candidate doesn’t secure more than 50 percent of the vote the top two will
run off in a second round.

Almost immediately, senior IEC official Habib Rahman Nang slammed
Abdullah’s announcement as premature.

“No candidate has the right to declare himself the winner,” Nang said.
“According to the law, it is the IEC that decides who is the winner.”

Abdullah, who is seeking the presidency for the third time after losing in
2009 and 2014, said his team would “make the new government”.

Without giving details, Abdullah also mentioned reports of “some
government officials” meddling in the election process.

His remarks follow the release on social media of several videos
purporting to show election workers stuffing ballots in favour of Ghani.

– Safeguards against fraud –

The IEC’s complaints division head, Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, said the panel
had so far received 2,569 complaints.

Previous Afghan polls have been marred by widespread allegations of
systemic fraud, so the stakes are high for the IEC, which has promised a
clean process this year with rigorous steps to curtail cheating.

Commentators suggested the videos of apparent ballot stuffing could either
have been made by rivals trying to discredit Ghani, or else produced as proof
that the rigging had actually been carried out.

But even if true, the IEC insists it has ample safeguards against such
blatant fraud through new technology and voter verification techniques,
particularly biometric devices designed to ensure each person only voted
once.

“The management of election day was better than previous elections and
security was better,” said Ahmad Zubair Habibzada, a spokesman for the
Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an election watchdog that
dispatched about 5,200 observers across the country.

Despite a large pool of candidates, the election was seen as a two-horse
race between Abdullah and Ghani.

They both claimed victory in the 2014 poll — a vote so tainted by fraud
and violence that it forced the administration of then-US president Barack
Obama to push for a compromise that saw Abdullah awarded the subordinate
role.

Saturday’s election was also marred by hundreds of small-scale Taliban
attacks at polling stations, but the insurgents were unable to steal the
headlines.

BSS/AFP/BZC/2005HRS