The deadlock over the June 14 second round run-off has quashed
hopes for a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan, a headache
for the West as most U.S.-led forces continue to withdraw from the
country this year.
Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission had been due to
announce results of the June 14 run-off vote at 2 p.m. (0930 GMT)
but officials said it would be put off by a few hours.
It was unclear what caused the delay, which came as rival camps
struggled to find a last-minute compromise to keep Afghanistan from
sliding into a protracted period of uncertainty without a clear
leader accepted by all sides.
Both rounds of the vote have been plagued by accusations of mass
fraud, and the refusal by either candidate to accept the outcome
could split the fragile country along ethnic lines.
Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban fighter, and Ashraf Ghani, an
ex-World Bank official, have locked horns over the election, with
both effectively declaring victory in the contest to succeed Hamid
On Monday, both camps said they were holding renewed discussions to
find ways to defuse the crisis, possibly about how many additional
polling stations need to be audited in order to satisfy both
candidates that the vote was free of fraud.
"Our meetings continued until midnight and there were some
improvements but we havenít reached final agreement," said Mujibul
Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, adding that the ball was
now in Ghani's court.
Azita Rafhat, a spokeswoman for Ghaniís camp, said they would
announce their position on the talks later on Monday.
Abdullah, who has a Pashtun father and a Tajik mother, draws much of
his support from the Tajik minority in northern Afghanistan. Ghani,
a former World Bank economist, has strong support from Pashtun
tribes in the country's south and east. Refusal by either Abdullah
or Ghani to accept the outcome of the election could plunge the
country into a dangerous crisis, with the possibility of a bloody
standoff between the two ethnic groups or even secession of parts of
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Without a clear leader, Afghanistan could split into two or more
fiefdoms along tribal fault lines, or even return to the bloody
civil war of the 1990s.
But on Monday, both sides appeared keen to find a compromise.
Official final results are due on July 22, so election officials
still have time to conduct a broader fraud probe that would be
suitable to both sides.
Ghani's aides say he is in the lead in the run-off by at least one
Abdullah has accused Karzai, also a Pashtun, of playing a role in
the alleged rigging in Ghani's favor and says he would accept the
vote only if he saw firm evidence that fraudulent votes had been
thrown out and the final result was clean.
As their standoff intensified in past weeks, Afghanistan has become
awash with talk about a broader rift along ethnic lines or even
violence unless they agree to accept the outcome of the vote or come
to a compromise arrangement.
In the background, Taliban insurgents remained a formidable security
risk after vowing to disrupt the election process. On Monday, they
killed a district police chief in the western city of Herat and
attacked a check point in northern Afghanistan.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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