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“No Less than a Miracle”: Afghanistan's Next President is… Ashraf Ghani?

Ashraf Ghani trailed Abdullah Abdullah in the first round but found his second wind in the form of a few million votes to claim victory.

Ashraf Ghani trailed Abdullah Abdullah in the first round but found his second wind in the form of a few million votes to claim victory. image taken from US embassy in Kabul's Flickr.

If preliminary results are to be believed — a big ‘if’ given his opponent's stormy statements on voter fraud– Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is likely to become Afghanistan's next elected president. Afghanistan's International Electoral Commission (IEC) stated today that eight million votes were cast in a tension-filled runoff between former Finance Minister Ghani and Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah on June 16.

Contested victory

Currently Dr. Ghani, a Pashtun, is in the lead with 56% of votes, a margin Abdullah Abdullah, a part-Pashtun, part-Tajik popular among Afghanistan's non-Pashtun ethnic groups is unlikely to overturn, despite having led Ghani in the first round by 14 percentage points. As BBC Persian journalist Jamal Mousavi tweeted [fa]:

According to the preliminary result of the elections, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai with 56% of the votes is in the lead for Afghanistan's next presidency. Results are not final yet. 

Still, Ghani's supporters have already started congratulating the winner. Lutfullah Stanikzai's tweet reads:

Predictably, Abdullah Abdullah's spokesman has announced that they are not accepting the results. TOLO News tweeted: 

Dr. Abdullah's supporters are condemning what his campaign team has called “industrial-scale fraud”. An Abdullah supporter Yar Mohabbat raged [fa]: 

Announcing result of fraud elections is not acceptable. Fraud president is not my president.

While another Abdullah supporter, Aziz Taheer, questioned the legitimacy of the vote count:

Kabul resident Haider Sediqi, responding to a question posed by the BBC, wrote [fa]: 

Ashraf Ghani wants to rule over people with millions of fraud votes, but people are not going to tolerate that.

Journalist Ahmad Mukhtar continued to report sour grapes from the Abdullah camp: 

Due to the accusations of fraud, there could be recounts in some districts. American-Afghan writer Freshta Kazemi alleged that a quarter of the votes will be recounted.

No compromise?

Before the announcement of the results, Ghani and Abdullah had been appearing to talk past each other as their supporters warred on social media. IEC head Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail was forced to step down after Abdullah's team claimed to have recordings of him ordering ballot box stuffing in Ghani's favour.

A truck states its support for Abdullah Abdullah (picture tweeted by @alibomaye)

A truck states its support for Abdullah Abdullah (picture tweeted by @alibomaye. Abdullah Abdullah is  the figure in the centre)

On the morning of July 7 Ashraf Ghani had stated that the votes of the people should be respected:

Abdullah Abdullah issued a similar message, albeit with an emphasis on a certain type of vote – the clean type. 

These clean votes, he explained, were different from “ghost” votes.

According to ex-BBC journalist and human rights advocate Ramin Anwar, Ashraf Ghani is ready to negotiate with Abdullah Abdullah to avoid conflict or violence.

While as rumours swirled on Twitter, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan was forced to deny that he had had a role in helping the IEC process the votes and acting as a mediator between campaign teams.

 Over to Abdullah

With much at stake in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power it seems the question Global Voices asked back in April is as relevant as ever. As to the answer, much will depend on what Afghanistan's biggest loser, Abdullah Abdullah, and his millions of supporters, do next. 

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