Kabul (dpa) - According to preliminary results, incumbent Aschraf Ghani is leading the presidential election in Afghanistan in September. According to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), 50.64 percent of the votes went to him on Sunday. If this result remained, he would have won the election in the first ballot.
However, complaints can now be submitted to the election complaints commission. It is not only Ghani's most important challenger, former government director Abdullah Abdullah, who does not recognize the outcome. Afghanistan faces a more dangerous crisis than after the 2014 election. When the official end result will be available is open.
The announcement of the preliminary results is a further step in a veritable election drama that has been keeping the war-torn country in suspense for almost three months. So far, it has been marked by allegations of fraud, blocked re-counting, demonstrations, and hours of live televised attempts by the electoral authorities to mediate candidates that ended in clashes.
Ghani's main challenger Abdullah Abdullah won 39.52 percent of the vote, according to the election commission. As previously announced, Abdullah did not recognize the preliminary result. For weeks he has been demanding the clarification of 300,000 invalid votes, in his opinion. This clarification has still not taken place and "no fraudulent result will be accepted". At a press conference in Kabul, Abdullah said: "We are the winning team in the elections based on the clean voices of the people."
Candidates Gulbuddin Hekmatjar, Rahmatullah Nabil and the Council of Presidential Candidates - a merger of several less well-known presidential applicants - also said they did not want to recognize the preliminary result. Hekmatjar's election team also threatened protests.
Ghani, visibly in a good mood, said in a speech at the Presidential Palace that the election was a victory for the Republic and over those who had demanded other forms of government. He wanted to build a government "worthy of this great nation". His team will also monitor the activities of the election complaints commission and also submit their own complaints.
The presidential election had taken place on September 28. Before the election, there were many warnings in Kabul about a possible political crisis with street protests or even violence between supporters of candidates in the event of a controversial election.
After massive allegations of falsification of elections in Afghanistan in recent years, the candidates and political parties had hoped that the use of biometric devices to check voters would rule out electoral manipulation this time. Taking fingerprints and photos of voters should make it impossible to simply fill ballot boxes with thousands of bogus ballots.
However, the use of biometric devices posed a number of technical challenges. Around a third of the 300,000 votes criticized by Abdullah are said to have been cast outside the opening hours of the polling stations. The election commission said that the time and date of the biometric devices had been incorrectly set due to "human error". Abdullah's team was not convinced by this explanation. It requested that these votes be declared invalid.
Afghanistan expert Thomas Ruttig from the Kabul think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network predicts that the controversy surrounding the controversial votes will now boil again. "Clarifying this can take weeks, and the result is unpredictable," says Ruttig. Another problem is that the electoral institutions do not enjoy complete trust. The opposition has labeled the election commission as biased and pro-Ghani. The election commission, on the other hand, had repeatedly emphasized its independence.
The Election Complaints Commission (IECC) said on Sunday that handling complaints would take more than 30 working days. It is unlikely that the debates about controversial votes will be conducted less sharply, because even smaller decisions by the IECC could still necessitate a runoff between Ghani and Abdullah. Ghani is only about 11,600 votes above the 50 percent plus one vote that is necessary for an election victory in the first round.
Observers rate the current crisis as potentially more dangerous than the months-long dispute over the 2014 election result. At that time, Ghani and Abdullah had entered into a government of national unity under US pressure. This time, however, it is said in diplomatic circles in Kabul, there are no signs that the USA wanted to mediate in the current crisis.
In addition, according to experts, Ghani has fought over many of the country's political leaders during the five years in his tenure, who would now fight even more closely with Abdullah for their political survival.
Washington is also busy with the recently resumed negotiations with the Taliban insurgents on ways to peace. There have also been repeated reports in the past few weeks that the United States wanted to withdraw thousands more soldiers.
US Ambassador John Bass's Twitter account
Summary of ToloNews' preliminary results