Preliminary results from Afghanistan‘s presidential elections in September will not be released until November 14, the Independent Election Commission chair Hawa Alam Nuristani said.
Afghans went to the polls for a first-round vote on September 28 and initial results were supposed to have been released by October 19.
“We have already apologised for missing the date [more than a week ago], but this doesn’t mean failure,” Nuristani told reporters.
“This [election] is a fate-determining issue in the country and we cannot accept sacrificing transparency for speed.”
A lengthy postponement is likely to stoke political uncertainty and allegations of fraud.
Election officials cited several technical issues slowing the counting of ballots, including an attempt from unknown quarters to hack the central system of Dermalog, the German company that provided biometric machines designed to prevent duplicate votes.
In one bizarre incident, two police officers, purportedly escaping chilly temperatures, slept inside the main election data centre, which is supposed to be sealed, prompting howls of outrage from the team of key candidate Abdullah Abdullah.
This year’s election is considered a two-horse race between Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani.
The two squared off in 2014, with Ghani eventually named winner after a bitter campaign that was marred by violence and allegations of systemic fraud.
It was only after US involvement that Ghani and Abdullah agreed to a power-sharing setup that has only deepened their mutual contempt.
Last month’s election saw record low turnout – roughly 26 percent of the more than nine million registered voters cast their ballots, according to the election commission.
It took place against the backdrop of a Taliban campaign of violence and weeks after US President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the group under which the US would withdraw its troops.
Ghani had sharply criticised the draft deal. Days ahead of the election, the Trump administration cut $160m in direct funding to Afghan authorities, citing corruption.
If no candidate obtains over 50 precent in the results, a second round of voting will be held.