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    Afghanistan's Audit of 23,000 Ballot Boxes Underway

    Afghan election commission workers sorts ballot papers for an audit of the presidential run-off votes at a election commission office in Kabul, July 18, 2014.
    Afghan election commission workers sorts ballot papers for an audit of the presidential run-off votes at a election commission office in Kabul, July 18, 2014.
    VOA News

    U.S. officials say Afghan and international officials hope to audit 1,000 ballot boxes per day, as each of the eight million votes cast in Afghanistan's runoff election are examined for legitimacy.

    U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Daniel Feldman told reporters in Washington Friday that so far more than 133 ballot boxes of a total of 23,000 have been audited since the process began on Thursday.

    Feldman said the audit will ramp up once the full regiment of international observers are in place in Kabul. In addition to the domestic and foreign observers, representatives of presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, United Nations officials, and media representatives will also be taking part in the process.

    In a deal mediated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Abdullah and Ghani agreed to a full U.N.-supervised audit of the entire runoff poll and committed to abide by the final results.  

    “[C]learly what Secretary Kerry produced during his visit to Kabul was just about in the category of miraculous,” said Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in an interview with VOA.  “And I think it demonstrates yet again how crucial a sustained, high level U.S. role is in the complex political system of Afghanistan, and indeed in Iraq where conflict is also raging.

    Millions of Afghans took part in the first round of presidential elections April 5, defying threats of violence by the Taliban while election authorities claimed the turnout was even higher in the June 14 runoff vote.  Abdullah led the first round but trails in preliminary second round results that put Ghani in the lead by about one million votes.
     
    Abdullah rejected the outcome, accusing President Hamid Karzai, election authorities and the Ghani campaign of colluding against him to rig the vote that could lead to the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.

    Feldman says under the U.S.-brokered deal, both candidates have agreed to immediately abide by the results of the audit, with the winner serving as president and establishing a national unity government. The deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan would not confirm whether that government will include the creation of a prime minister post alongside that of the president, and said the framework must be put forth by the Afghans.

    "There will be challenges ahead," Crocker told VOA.  "First, the audit process itself will have to be and have to be perceived to be, fair and transparent by both candidates.  And both candidates will have to accept the outcome. There will also clearly be challenges in defining exactly what the role of this new executive is going to be.  That was all left to be determined.  And I imagine we will have some pretty sporty conversations among Afghans as to what power he will actually have. "

    Feldman also said he could not give an end date to the auditing process, but hoped it would not be too much longer than the previously scheduled inauguration date of August 2 that has since been delayed.

    The U.S. official also noted that current Afghan President Karzai worked closely with Secretary Kerry to broker the deal that includes both a technical and political framework for the election process.

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