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Afghan Election Audit to Begin Thursday

FILE - Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, left, and rival presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghan officials say the audit of all ballots cast in the presidential runoff will begin on Thursday.

Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told reporters on Wednesday that the counting of all 8 million votes and the transportation of ballot boxes to Kabul will officially start on July 17.

The transport of ballots from provincial offices to the capital will be under the supervision of ISAF, while representatives of the candidates, the media, and domestic and foreign observers will monitor the audit.

In a deal mediated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, rival Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani agreed to a full United Nations-supervised audit of the entire runoff poll and committed to abide by the final results.

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 1 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.