ISLAMABAD - Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah led thousands of supporters Friday as part of his ongoing protest campaign against alleged mass fraud in the June 14 runoff presidential election. He has ignored repeated calls by the U.N. and his rival candidate to rejoin the vote-counting process.
With Afghan flags and Abdullah posters in their hands, angry demonstrators marched toward central Kabul with the presidential hopeful among them.
Rally participants were chanting, “long live Abdullah, God is the Greatest and Death to Fraudsters”. This was the first time the Afghan presidential candidate took part in one of the protest rallies since he withdrew his observers from the vote-counting process last week.
Protester Abdul Haadi spoke to Reuters.
“Hamid Karzai is elected President of Afghanistan so we are requesting him to help the reality and accept the reality and the international community must accept the reality and must support the Afghan nation, and not a single individual," said Haadi.
Abdullah alleges that mass fraud has been committed during the runoff vote that pitted him against former finance minister Ashraf Ghani. He accuses President Karzai, his provincial governors and security personnel of complicity in rigging the polls.
The demonstrations have so far been peaceful. The United Nations has urged protesters not to resort to violence, warning it could be detrimental to the democratic process and lead to a chaotic situation in strife-torn Afghanistan. The world body has urged Abdullah to rejoin the election process and his rival candidate Ghani is also making similar appeals. Ghani has also criticized the Independent Election Commission for suggesting they may not release initial results on July 2 and may delay them for few days in the wake of Abdullah’s allegations.
“We believe that the only way forward is full adherence to the constitution to the election law and to the regulations," said Ghani. "We therefore, are dismayed that our esteemed colleague Dr. Abdullah is withdrawn from the process. Our request to him is simple; join back the process respect the will of the people.”
Ghani says Afghanistan has little time left for addressing its urgent domestic issues and international commitments.
"The people of Afghanistan do not have time for games," said Ghani. "The International environment demands that a committed government take charge and chart the destiny of this great nation. The people of Afghanistan will not permit mayhem or disorder. Anyone that attempts to use threat of illegitimate use of force is going to be isolated.”
The election deadlock has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Ghani represents the majority Pashtun community while Abdullah mainly draws support from Tajik Afghans, the second largest ethnic group. The deadlock also comes at a time when the Taliban insurgency has stepped up its attacks while NATO-led forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.