Last-Minute Audits Build Little Confidence In Afghan Elections

The election impasse continues in Afghanistan. Preliminary results are due on Monday, following an audit of ballots, but Abdullah Abdullah, who is trailing his rival, says he won't accept the results.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer, sitting in for Rachel Martin. In Afghanistan, a political deadlock shows no sign of breaking. Initial results from last month's presidential runoff election were delayed by a week when the election commission conducted a last-minute audit of more than 1 million votes. This all came about after candidate Abdullah Abdulla made accusations that the June 14 vote was rigged. NPR's Sean Carberry reports that the international community is pushing Afghan elected officials to conduct another, more thorough, fraud audit.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: On his annual visit to Kabul on July 4, Senator Lindsey Graham set off some fireworks of his own.

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SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: There needs to be an audit that is recognized by the Afghan people as legitimate and by the international community as legitimate.

CARBERRY: Graham says that without a more rigorous audit to eliminate the alleged fraud, the election will fail. And he says that means a bleak future for the country.

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GRAHAM: And I cannot envision a scenario where these elections fail and the international community stays committed at the level they are today.

CARBERRY: The current audit covers some 1,900 polling stations, about 8 percent of stations that were open on election day. Thijs Berman, the chief observer from the EU election team, says that's not enough to confer legitimacy on the results.

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THIJS BERMAN: We conclude that you may well end up with more than 6,000 polling stations that need thorough audit.

CARBERRY: The two candidates agree, in principle, that a deeper audit is necessary. But they don't agree on the terms and timing. Abdullah Abdulla had a commanding lead in the first round of voting, but leaked results show him well behind in the runoff. Hence, he's demanding an aggressive audit before the preliminary results are released. Opponent Ashraf Ghani disagrees.

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ASHRAF GHANI: Announcement of preliminary results cannot be postponed.

CARBERRY: Meanwhile, the rhetoric on social media between Abdulla and Ghani supporters is so toxic that the government even considered banning Facebook. And on the streets of Kabul, weary people just want a resolution to the stalemate.

SHARIFA ESMATI: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: Sharifa Esmati is a 21-year-old sociology student.

ESMATI: (Through translator) Afghanistan can't bear such uncertainty. Both candidates should sit and talk. They should think about the people.

ABBAS ALI DANISH: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: Abbas Ali Danish, a 22-year-old law student, says that Afghan people don't deserve to be punished with another civil war.

DANISH: (Through translator) The candidates need to negotiate a deal because the election commission isn't capable of resolving the dispute.

CARBERRY: Though expected tomorrow, the preliminary results could be further delayed. Then there's still another appeals process before the final results. Sean Carberry. NPR News, Kabul.

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