ISLAMABAD - Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United Nations have urged the two rival presidential candidates to expeditiously resolve the election crisis that has entered its fifth month and dashed hopes for a peaceful political transition.
Addressing a ceremony in Kabul, Karzai insisted the country could have a new government within a week if the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, can reach a deal in the interest of national unity.
“Afghanistan is in an urgent need [of] establishing a new government," Karzai emphasized, adding that "time for our government is over. We want a new government.”
Abdullah and Ghani were present an the ceremony to mark the death anniversary of anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Masood. Karzai urged the crowd to loudly call for both the candidates to reach a deal quickly.
“Reach an agreement and rescue the country," Karzai said, referring to Abdullah and Ghani. "You both are our respectful figures, so establish the new government. We are in hurry and ready to handover the government to you.”
The outgoing president, who has been in power since late 2001, has interacted with both the candidates in his bid to bring an end to the prolonged election process. But his Tuesday remarks are being described as one of his strongest public statements on the political stalemate threatening Afghan security and economic gain.
But the event Tuesday abruptly came to an early end because Abdullah’s supporters in the crowd shouted other speakers down. The rowdy proceedings underscored prevailing tensions in the country along ethnic lines.
Abdullah announced on Monday he would not accept the outcome of the U.N.-supervised audit of the June presidential runoff, again declaring himself winner of both rounds of the election.
The outcome of the audit is expected to declare Ghani the winner and the political talks on a power-sharing deal are deadlocked.
President Barack Obama spoke to Abdullah and Ghani on Saturday to press them to quickly conclude the talks.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a similar appeal to both of them to work together for a speedy settlement of the political crisis. In a statement, he noted that in the U.S.-mediated deal in early July, both the candidates agreed to accept the nationwide audit of the presidential runoff results and form a government of national unity.
It added that with the main audit completed last week and the announcement of updated results anticipated shortly, the Secretary-General expected the presidential hopefuls to now abide by their commitments to enable Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of power.