Ghani, Abdullah camps claim victory in Afghanistan election

Official slams victory claims as premature after camps for incumbent president and rival chief executive say they won.

    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have both claimed victory in the election [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have both claimed victory in the election [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    The camps for the top rivals in Afghanistan's election, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, have both claimed victory after the first round of voting on Saturday, even though official counting is still under way.

    "We have the most votes in this election," Abdullah said at a news conference on Monday, without offering evidence.

    "The results will be announced by the IEC [Independent Election Commission], but we have the most votes. The election is not going to go to a second round."

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    Abdullah, who is seeking the presidency for the third time after losing in 2009 and 2014, said his team would "make the new government".

    Also on Monday, Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh said that the president had won a clear first-ballot victory. Saleh also did not offer evidence.

    "The information that we have received show that 60 to 70 percent of people voted (for) us," Saleh was quoted as saying by news outlet Voice of America.

    Abdullah and Ghani have shared power over the past five years in a so-called unity government formed by the United States after a standoff in the wake of allegations of widespread fraud and corruption in the 2014 polls. 

    The conflicting claims of victory have sparked concerns of a similar impasse. 

    A candidate needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to claim victory in the first round of voting. A runoff vote would be held in November between the top two candidates if no one passes that mark. 

    Electoral body slams Abdullah

    Senior IEC official Habib Rahman Nang immediately slammed the claims of victory as premature.

    "No candidate has the right to declare himself the winner," he said. "According to the law, it is the IEC that decides who is the winner."

    Results are not expected until October 19. 

    As there are no exit polls in Afghan elections, projections of victory are "guesswork", said Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from the capital, Kabul.

    "So far 3,736 of the polling stations have sent in their votes. There are still another 350 or so that have to send theirs in, and so far they say 2.1 million votes have been sent in and there’s another 500,000 to a million expected to come in in the coming days," Birtley said.

    The vote held on Saturday saw a low turnout because of the threat of attacks, a muted campaign and concerns over fraud.

    Still, election officials have said the result would be the purest yet, with equipment such as biometric fingerprint readers and better training for poll workers ensuring the vote was fair.

    "There's a lot of rumours and conspiracy theories that the ballots have been rigged again," Birtley said. "This time there has been biometric technology and voter verification measures that are going to make it harder to cheat, but not impossible - especially in the outlying areas."

    Abdullah claimed in Monday's remarks that "some government officials" meddled in the election process. He did not give any details on his allegation.

    His statements follow the release on social media of several videos purporting to show election workers "stuffing" ballots (by submitting multiple votes).

    Two members of parliament have called for an official inquiry into the videos.

    "Those who have committed fraud must be investigated,” said legislator Saima Khogyani, according to TOLO News.

    A commissioner from the IEC's complaints department, Mohammad Abdullah, said the IEC is "focusing on this issue".  

    The commission has received 2,569 complaints relating to the vote so far, the head of the complaints panel, Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, said.  

    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier commended "all Afghans who exercised their democratic voice", and "congratulates them on their commitment to selecting their leaders through the ballot box".

    Authorities heralded the election as a success because the Taliban was unable to pull off a large-scale attack resulting in high casualty numbers, and there were fewer technical difficulties than some had feared.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies