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Both Afghan Candidates Pull Observers From U.N. Audit Of Votes

Afghan election commission worker sorts ballots for an audit.
Rahmat Gul
Afghan election commission worker sorts ballots for an audit.

The Afghan election process was thrown further into disarray on Wednesday, when both candidates pulled their observers from a U.N.-led audit of the country's ballots.

The Associated Press reports that Abdullah Abdullah was the first to withdraw his observer, saying the process was full of fraud. The news service adds:

"The U.S. brokered the audit of the eight million ballots from the country's June presidential runoff as a way to end what had been a debilitating impasse over who would take over from outgoing President Hamid Karzai. But the audit, which was announced in July, has proceeded in fits and starts as both sides have argued strenuously over every ballot.

"Former Foreign Minister Abdullah is facing former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the election. Abdullah came in first during the first round of voting on April 5 but preliminary results from the June runoff showed Ahmadzai in the lead. That sparked accusations of rampant fraud from the Abdullah camp."

Reuters reports that after Abdullah pulled his observer, Ghani followed suit.

A senior member of Ghani's team told Reuters pulling out seemed "politically ... more prudent."

Remember, it was just earlier this month that Abdullah and Ghani trotted out a joint statement, vowing to stick to the process and inaugurate a new president on Sept. 2, when Karzai has said he will leave office.

The impasse has strained an already fragile democracy. Just how serious is it? Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that "government ministers and officials" with ties to security forces were threatening to seize power if this issue was not resolved.

NPR's Sean Carberry tells us that at this point, even the most optimistic political operatives believe hosting an inauguration by Sept. 2 is near impossible.

Reuters reports, however, that the Independent Election Commission will continue its work without the observers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.