While Afghans have expressed satisfaction over a decision to announce the preliminary election results – delayed by three months – there has been a mixed reaction to President Ashraf Ghani appearing to win a second term.
On Sunday, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that Ghani was leading the race with 50.64 percent of the vote in the September 28 poll, ahead of Abdullah Abdullah (39.52 percent) and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (3.85 percent) of the 1.9 million votes.
The results, originally scheduled to be announced on October 19, have been repeatedly delayed with IEC officials citing technical issues, allegations of fraud and protests from candidates.
Following the IEC announcement, candidates now have three days to file any complaints they may have before final results are announced.
Claiming fraud in the election, Chief Executive Abdullah’s team, leader of Hezb-i-Islami Hekmatyar and a member of candidate Rahmatullah Nabil’s campaign said on Sunday they would challenge the results.
But Hussain Hazrat, 29, a lawyer based in the capital Kabul said the candidates should respect the results “for the sake of peace and democracy”.
“It is good to finally see the results after almost three months since the election day,” Hazrat said. “I think it is time to focus on the peace talks with the Taliban as soon as possible so that we can reach an agreement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.”
Abdullah’s and Hekmatyar’s supporters blocked several election offices across the country, preventing election workers from a ballot recount for over a month.
Earlier this month, Abdullah agreed to allow a ballot recount in provinces where his supporters had stopped the process.
Shafeeq, 34, a trader based in Kabul, said he felt the election was “staged and pre-planned for Ghani’s win”.
“I am not satisfied with the result. People are not happy with Ghani as he has not done anything about the civilian deaths during the US-led Afghan forces’ night raids and airstrikes,” Shafeeq said.
“Many innocent people have died and there is no accountability.”
At least 3,812 civilians have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war in the first half of 2019, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report published in July.
It noted a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and NATO-led troops.
This month, a US drone struck a car in southeastern Afghanistan, causing it to catch fire and kill all five passengers inside, including three women.
The conflict since the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans.
But many now fear the disputed election results might trigger a new political crisis that could lead to more violence.
“We were in a constant fear of a conflict because the opposition parties did everything to sabotage the election results,” Ikram Ghaffar, 28, a businessman in Kabul, told Al Jazeera.
“Everything was on hold as the results were stuck and there was a sense of insecurity in the country.
“Now that the IEC announced Ghani as a winner, I want the opposition parties to help and support Ghani for a better conflict-free Afghanistan, we should aim for peace in the country.”