Afghan candidate rejects election results

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah defiantly told thousands of supporters Tuesday that he will declare victory in the country’s election, claiming massive fraud was responsible for preliminary results that put his rival in the lead.

The United States warned both camps against trying to seize power, saying international financial and security support was at stake.

Abdullah said he received calls from President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and he was told that Kerry would be flying to the Afghan capital on Friday in a bid to help defuse the crisis. State Department officials accompanying Kerry in Beijing declined to comment on his travel plans.

Abdullah told his supporters that the results of the election were fraudulent, but asked them to give him a few more days to negotiate.

“We denounce and do not accept the results of the fraudulent vote. I assure you people of Afghanistan that I will sacrifice for you, but I will never accept a fraudulent government,” he told his supporters, many angry over the result. “We announce that only the government elected through clean votes will come to power.”

The Afghan Independent Election Commission on Monday released preliminary results from the June 14 runoff showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner could be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

According to the preliminary results, Ahmadzai had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent. Turnout was more than 50 percent.

That was a sharp turnaround from the first round of voting on April 5 when Abdullah garnered the most votes with 46 percent to Ahmadzai’s 31.6 percent but failed to get the majority needed to avoid a runoff vote.

Abdullah has refused to accept any results from the second round until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.

Lurking beneath the surface is a growing fear that long-simmering ethnic tensions could erupt into violence if the crisis is not resolved.

While Abdullah is of mixed ethnicity, his core of supporters hail from the Tajik faction, a group that has long felt cut off from the top tiers of power in Afghanistan. Ahmadzai, meanwhile, owes much of his support to fellow Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group, who have historically ruled the nation.

Those long-held feelings of marginalization have helped drive the current animosity felt by Abdullah’s supporters. Many say they believe their leaders will never be allowed to govern Afghanistan, regardless of vote counts.

The election commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be audited.

Abdullah charged that outgoing President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadzai and the election commission were colluding against him. “They ignored us and announced the fraudulent results,” he said.

“People across the county have called on us to announce our government and I cannot say no to the people’s wish,” he said. “All of our lives we defended this country. We do not want crisis, we want national unity.”

“We are the winner of the election without any doubt,” he said.