WASHINGTON - Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai thought he would be out of office weeks ago, but an audit of the bitterly contested election continues, and no winner has been announced. He seems to be losing patience.
“The Afghan nation is waiting impatiently to see an outcome for the agreements reached by our two brothers for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan, so Afghanistan can have a government which all the people feel a part of," said Karzai.
Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah won the first round of voting in April. Preliminary results from a June runoff showed former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead.
The recount of ballots has been chaotic.
Abdullah’s team pulled out of the audit, and then Ghani’s observers followed suit.
Faizal Ahmad Manaw, with the Abdullah campaign, said, "Unfortunately the invalidation process is just a joke, and there is no intention of throwing out fraudulent votes."
And while the counting continues, analysts say Ghani is likely to remain in the lead.
Scott Smith, who leads the Afghan program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said, “If Abdullah’s camp is the loser, but doesn’t recognize the result, will they also be able to share power or not? I think that is probably going to be the main question about how they react to this.”
President Barack Obama said it is time to compromise. ”Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress,” he said.
Many Afghans are frustrated by the prolonged elections process. Munira Hashimi, an Afghan protester, said they also are worried.
"Afghans face serious security problems. Some provinces have become more dangerous. With the delay of the election result, people have begun to lose hope," said Hashimi.
By the end of this year Afghan forces will be in complete control of their country’s security.
The political chaos has delayed the signing of an agreement that would allow a small number of international troops to stay past December.
The stakes are high, according to Smith. “The likely outcome or at least a possible outcome looking at past Afghan history would be sort of a disintegration into a variety of factions that may just try to establish local fiefdoms or may fight against each other,” he said.
Analysts say the political paralysis is allowing Taliban insurgents to gain and hold ground in some parts of the country.
It is also providing propaganda for the Taliban who question the legitimacy of the election.