ISLAMABAD - Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has rejected the results of a United Nations-led vote audit aimed at clarifying who won the country's June 14 runoff election.
Abdullah insisted Monday that he'd won, adding that talks with rival Ashraf Ghani on forming a unity government were deadlocked. His announcement dashed hopes that a new president could be inaugurated soon.
The audit of eight million votes was completed September 5, though final results have yet to be released.
Hours after a final unsuccessful round of discussions with Ghani to strike a power-sharing deal, Abdullah said the audit process failed to explain an extra one million votes cast in the second round of elections.
"The future of a stable Afghanistan … could not be based on the foundation of fraud or fraudulent government," Abdullah said.
He said the country would not be "a viable partner with the international community" and said it already had suffered "for acceptance of fraudulent outcome of 2009 elections."
Abdullah had finished second in the fraud-marred 2009 presidential election that gave the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, a second term in office. Karzai had planned to leave office earlier this summer.
Obama urged compromise
Monday’s announcement by the former Afghan foreign minister came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned him and Ghani, urging them to agree on a national unity government as soon as possible.
Though Abdullah would not discuss many details of the conversation, he said, "Obama reiterated the commitment of the United States, once this government is formed, in supporting Afghanistan."
Abdullah again accused the government and national electoral institutions of being part of what he alleged was an “industrial-scale fraud” in the runoff vote to help his opponent win the race.
He also criticized the U.N.-supervised audit and a "flawed" process of invalidating suspicious ballots, saying his campaign’s concerns and complaints went unheeded.
Abdullah said he would consult the Afghan people before taking his next step. He didn't explain how he'd consult them.
He led the first round of presidential election in April, but preliminary results of the June runoff put former finance minister Ghani ahead of him by a million votes.
Both sides alleged election fraud and Abdullah threatened to form a parallel government. The political crisis prompted the United Nations and Washington to intervene and persuaded the presidential rivals to agree on a comprehensive vote audit.
Tensions had subsided
Political tensions seemed to ease in early August when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mediated a deal between the candidates to share power to prevent Afghanistan from returning to the ethnic confrontations of its past.
But subsequent discussions have repeatedly deadlocked on what powers the newly created post of chief executive would have in the proposed national unity government.
The losing candidate is expected to be given the office. The Ghani campaign insists that, while it is committed to forming a unified government, giving the election's loser chief executive power over Cabinet ministers would violate the Afghan constitution.
Fears rise over standoff
The international community, which largely supports Afghanistan both financially and militarily, is concerned that the political standoff could lead to dangerous divisions and protests in the country.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, last week said Afghanistan was in a "crucial period" of transition as international combat troops prepared to leave the country at year's end.
"A political transition with an outcome accepted by the candidates and the electorate is essential so that new leadership will have a mandate to tackle the country’s challenges," Feltman said at a NATO meeting on Afghanistan.
More civilians have been killed and injured in Afghanistan in the first half of this year than in the same period last year, as the Taliban and other armed groups continue to challenge the government's control.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.