Kerry Struggles To Resolve Election Crisis In Afghanistan

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Kabul to try to resolve an election dispute threatening to derail the country's democratic process. NPR's Tamara Keith talks to Kabul correspondent Sean Carberry.

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TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Tamara Keith in for Scott Simon. It's been almost a month since Afghanistan held a run-off election to choose its next president, and there's still no definitive result. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Kabul now trying to resolve the deadlock. The controversy stems from accusations by candidate Abdullah Abdullah that the vote was rigged in favor of his opponent Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah has rejected the preliminary results announced this week that show Ghani leading by more than a million votes. Abdullah has claimed he is the legitimate winner. NPR's Sean Carberry is in Kabul awaiting a press conference with Secretary Kerry and the two candidates. Sean, what do we now at this point about Secretary Kerry's talks with the candidates? Have they come to an agreement?

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: As far as we know right now, there is not an agreement. They have been meeting over the last two days. Kerry came in yesterday, held meetings with each candidate individually, met with the head of the U.N. delegation here, met with President Karzai and was expected to leave earlier today. But they did not reach an agreement yesterday. Kerry extended his visits, has held more talks with the candidates. And again, at this point, we're awaiting the joint appearance to announce whether or not they have come to some sort of agreement on how they can proceed with determining who won the election.

KEITH: What are the options for resolving this deadlock?

CARBERRY: The main suggestion is an audit of the votes. And the problem has been agreeing on the terms of the audits. Now the U.N. has a proposal on the table where 8,000 polling stations would be audited with a variety of triggers that would set off the audits. But from what we understand from Abdullah's camp, they have not accepted that. And again, we're waiting to hear at this point if they've come up with any sort of compromise on an audit that both candidates would accept.

KEITH: Is there any talk of some sort of unity government where one would be president and one would be prime minister happily ever after?

CARBERRY: There has been talk of that. That's been proposed by a number of people. The main obstacle for that is the fact that that system does not exist here currently in Afghanistan. Right now it is a presidential system. They don't have a prime minister. It would require constitutional changes. But people say that it could be done and could be done in a reasonable time period if the candidates would both agree. However, they've both said that they welcome the other as an opposition political figure but not someone that they want in their government.

KEITH: And quickly, what if they can't come to an agreement?

CARBERRY: Well, as things stand right now, Abdullah has removed himself from the process and said he won't accept the results. Ghani has asked the election's complaints commission to go forward with an audit. So one possibility is they go forward, do an audit, come to final results; and if Ghani is announced the winner, Abdullah doesn't accept; and then the question is, does he follow through with threats to form his own government which he has been talking about? Obviously, everyone here is trying to make sure that whatever happens, it doesn't involve a breakdown on sectarian lines and any type of violence. But there's still no clear answer if they can't come to a joint agreement.

KEITH: NPR's Sean Carberry is in Kabul. I trust you'll keep us updated on this.

CARBERRY: Yes I will.

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