Early Vote Tallies Speed The Sparring Between Afghan Candidates

Preliminary voting tallies in the Afghan presidential election, released Monday, did little to ease a brewing political crisis. The losing candidate continued to claim fraud, declaring himself the winner instead. Meanwhile, the U.S. is warning of a power grab.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Violence continues in Afghanistan as the country's political future is in limbo. A suicide bomber killed four NATO service members today, along with two Afghan police and 10 civilians. Afghan forces are also struggling with a major Taliban offensive.

But all of this is being overshadowed by a fight between the countries two presidential candidates. They're sparring over the preliminary results of last month's runoff election. Ashraf Ghani, who is leading by more than a million votes, is calling for a transparent audit before the release of the final results later this month. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, is taking a more defiant stand, as NPR's Sean Carberry reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: (Foreign language spoken).

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Thousands of emotionally charged Abdullah supporters crowded into the largest meeting hall in Kabul. Before Abdullah even arrived, a group of young men tore down the poster of President Hamid Karzai. They replaced it with one of Abdullah.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: When he took the mic, Abdullah declared himself the winner of the election. He said, he has more legitimate votes and that the election was rigged against him. His supporters called Abdullah to declare his own government. Saying he was tempted to do so, he asked them to wait a few more days so he could decide on the best course of action. Supporters shouted back, no.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

ABDULLAH: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: President Obama called Abdullah to warn him that resorting to violence would cost Afghanistan its financial support, though the president said, he agrees with the Abdullah's long-standing call for a thorough audit of suspicious votes. Later in the day, a visibly fatigued Ghani told reporters that he believes his votes are clean.

ASHRAF GHANI: We've agreed to one of the most intensive and extensive audits in the history of the world.

CARBERRY: Ghani says, he's requesting that Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission evaluates some 30 percent of the ballots. He says, the United Nations should monitor the audit.

GHANI: We must engage in finding solutions.

CARBERRY: Ghani is calling on Abdullah to renew his support of the audit and accept the final results, though one powerful governor has already declared Abdullah Abdullah the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.

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