KABUL: Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has claimed victory in Afghanistan’s disputed election, blaming fraud for putting him behind in preliminary results as fears rise of instability and ethnic unrest.
Abdullah told a rally of thousands of rowdy supporters in Kabul on Tuesday that he would fight on to win the presidency, but called for patience from loyalists who demanded he declare a “parallel government” to rule the country.
“We are proud, we respect the votes of the people, we were the winner,” Abdullah said.
“Without any doubt or hesitation, we will not accept a fraudulent result, not today, not tomorrow, never.”
Before he spoke, a huge photograph of President Hamid Karzai was ripped down from the stage – underlining the boiling anger among Abdullah’s supporters after Monday’s preliminary result in favour of poll rival Ashraf Ghani.
The election stand-off has sparked concern that protests could spiral into ethnic violence and even lead to a return to the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-1996 civil war.
Both Abdullah and Ghani called for the country to remain united as it faces a difficult transfer of power at the same time that 50,000 US-led Nato troops wind down their battle against Taliban insurgents and aid money declines.
“Afghanistan’s unity is never in question,” Ghani, a former World Bank economist, said.
“We accept the preliminary result of the election, and I ask all my countrymen to patiently wait for the final results.
“Our votes are clean and will pass any auditing.”
President Karzai, the United States and the United Nations all called for candidates to respect the election timetable, which allows for auditing and complaints before the official result is released around July 24.
US President Barack Obama warned the two rivals that violence or taking “extra-constitutional means” would result in him stopping US assistance to the war-torn country.
In phone calls to Ghani and Abdullah, Obama “stressed that the United States expects a thorough review of all reasonable allegations of fraud to ensure a credible electoral process“, the White House said in a statement.
Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, said US Secretary of State John Kerry, who echoed similar warnings, would visit Kabul tomorrow in a bid to help solve the crisis. — AFP