Afghanistan’s chief election official resigned Monday, following allegations of fraud in the country’s runoff presidential race just over a week ago.
Ziaul Haq Amarkhel announced he was stepping down as Independent Elections Commission secretary, a move that prompted presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah to suggest he would end his boycott of ballot counting after the June 14 contest pitting him against former finance minister Ashraf Ghani.
"Now the door is open for us to talk to the [election] commission and talk about the conditions and circumstances that will help the process," Abdullah said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. "We do believe in transparency of the process and we will defend the legitimacy of the process."
Abdullah had announced last week that he would ignore the count, calling it fraudulent. He accused election officials of helping to stuff ballot boxes the night before the election.
He had called on Amarkhel to resign after Kabul police found Amarkhel in a truck with thousands of ballots.
The election chief decried the charges, saying Monday he was leaving office to further "the national interest" and resolve the political crisis.
Abdullah and Afghan President Hamid Karzai had asked the United Nations to step in and sort out the election.
UN suggests approval
The U.N. mission in Afghanistan acknowledged Amarkhel ‘s resignation, calling it “a step that helps protect Afghanistan’s historic political transition,” it said in a statement Monday, AP reported.
The runoff election’s preliminary results are due July 2 and the finals are expected July 23, the AP reported, citing the election commission’s timetable. Karzai has set Aug. 2 as the inauguration date.
At a news conference last week, Abdullah said, "Unfortunately, no election actually took place in some areas of Afghanistan. Just a process was going on under the name of the election."
"Election officials were caught moving ballots, but there still needs to be an investigation before we draw conclusions," said Jonah Blank, a senior political scientist at the think tank RAND Corp.’s offices in Arlington, Virginia.
Thomas Gouttierre, who directs the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Abdullah’s calling the election a fraud "more than anything else displays [his] apprehension about the possibility of ballot box stuffing," because Abdullah knows that has gone on in the past.
Gouttierre said in the 2009 election, Abdullah and Karzai both had organizations that stuffed ballot boxes.