Afghanistan Officials To Audit Votes From June Election
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Afghanistan was scheduled to inaugurate its new president yesterday. But the ceremony has been postponed indefinitely. The country has been in a political crisis since candidate Abdullah Abdullah declared the June election rigged in favor of opponent Ashraf Ghani. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated an agreement where all 8 million ballots cast would be reviewed under U.N. supervision. But the audit is behind schedule, and Abdullah's team is boycotting the review. NPR's Sean Carberry reports that Afghans are growing tired of the delays.
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Arzan Qeemat is a busy neighborhood on the outer fringes of Kabul that is home to a large community of Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. They voted overwhelmingly for Pashtun candidate, Ashraf Ghani, to succeed outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, who remains in power until the election is settled. Ghani won about 90 percent of the vote here.
HAJI AZARGULA: (Foreign language spoken).
CARBERRY: Haji Azargula is a farmer and shopkeeper. He says the audit is essential, but he's frustrated by how long it's taking. As we talk, a crowd of about 30 men and boys gather around.
AZARGULA: (Through translator) All these young people you're seeing around me, they're all waiting for the audit or election results.
CARBERRY: He says business is down because of the uncertainty over the election, and people are suffering. Azargula says, at this point, he doesn't care who wins.
AZARGULA: (Through translator) We will congratulate whoever will win. And we will ask the winner to serve for the people. That's what we want.
CARBERRY: Twenty-three-year-old computer science teacher Baitullah Patin agrees.
BAITULLAH PATIN: Which one is the president, that's not important. We only want peace.
CARBERRY: That sentiment could be fueled in part by the belief here that Ghani will when. Preliminary results show him leading by a million votes, which is what led Abdullah to cry foul since he won the first round of voting by nearly a million votes. But what's eased tensions in recent weeks is the political agreement John Kerry forged last month. The two candidates agreed that the winner will form a national unity government that includes the loser. Baitullah Patin
PATIN: So I think if this allied government came to come truly in Afghanistan, it will be a great opportunity for Afghanistans.
CARBERRY: A couple of hours' drive north of Kabul in the fertile Panjshir Valley, this idea is less popular. Panjshir is ethnic Tajik territory and Abdullah's base. Twenty-one-year-old Abdul Matin is an Afghan Army officer here.
ABDUL MATIN: (Through translator) The only reason I trust the audit process is the presence of the foreign observers. I wouldn't trust it if it was an Afghan process.
CARBERRY: But plumber Noor Ahmad Ahmadi says the audit is a failed process so far. He says that's because Abdullah doesn't accept the criteria for throwing out suspected fraudulent votes. The audit, which has just resumed, has been halted twice so far and could take weeks or more to complete. Ahmadi and others in Panjshir worry if the vote review fails, political crisis or even a new Civil War could lie ahead as U.S. troops continue their withdrawal. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.