Afghan president Ghani set for second term after narrow election victory

Result will give Ashraf Ghani authority needed to conduct peace talks with the Taliban

Sunday 22 December 2019 12:06
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Ashraf Ghani has served as president of Afghanistan since 2014
Ashraf Ghani has served as president of Afghanistan since 2014

Afghanistan's president has won a second term, earning 50.6 per cent of a preliminary vote count, but his opponents can still challenge the result, according to the country's election commission.

Results for the 28 September presidential polls have been repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots.

Ashraf Ghani appears to have beaten his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, who serves as the country's chief executive in a fragile national unity government.

Hawa Alam Nuristani, head of the Independent Election Commission, made the announcement at a press conference in the capital, Kabul.

Mr Abdullah agreed earlier in December to allow a ballot recount in provinces where his supporters had stopped the process for over a month.

The Afghan Election Commission had tried to launch a ballot recount in November but Mr Abdullah halted the attempt, saying he would not let his observers participate.

Thousands of Mr Abdullah's supporters rallied in November in the capital against what they said was the presence of faked ballots amid a controversial recount that seemed set to favour Mr Ghani.

The Unity Government between Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah was formed by the United States after Afghanistan's controversial 2014 presidential election. Because of accusations of widespread fraud, no results were announced, and the two leading contenders, Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah, agreed to share power.

The partnership has been fraught with bickering and rifts.

If the preliminary results hold and Mr Ghani remains president it will give him the authority he has been seeking to demand a leading role in peace talks with the Taliban.

Until now he and his government have been sidelined over the last year of direct talks between the US and the Taliban. Washington seeks to withdraw its troops and bring to an end its longest war, ending 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

It was not clear how the Taliban would respond to Mr Ghani's win. Mr Ghani has been demanding a ceasefire before engaging in talks, something the Taliban have steadfastly refused.

The Taliban currently controls or holds sway over half the country.

Associated Press

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