Home inContext Kerry Brokers Deal to Audit Afghan Votes

Kerry Brokers Deal to Audit Afghan Votes

Yael Rein

Secretary of State John F. Kerry help brokered an agreement between two Afghan presidential candidates on Saturday. As part of the deal, the Afghan government will recount all 8 million votes from the June 14th election. The losing candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the election commission of fraudulently influencing the election count to benefit Ashraf Ghani.

After two days of intense negotiations with Ghani, Abdullah, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Secretary Kerry brokered a framework that calls for an internationally supervised audit of all ballots and the creation of a national unity government. The candidate who wins the presidential election after the vote audit would then nominate the losing candidate to become a “chief executive” for the government, a new role without any defined powers as yet. According to the framework, over the next few years constitutional amendments would reform Afghanistan into a form of a parliamentary democracy, empowering a prime minister to serve as a head of government and the president acting as head of state.

Kerry speaks at a press conference flanked by former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani (right) and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. (Photo: Reuters)

To prevent the audit from being rigged, U.S.-led NATO forces will carry ballot boxes from the various Afghan provinces to Kabul to be recounted. According to U.N. officials, the recount will begin “without delay” and the procedure of auditing the first ballot boxes will begin within the next 24 hours. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) will also retrain its staff to conduct an investigation into election fraud.

While Ghani’s campaign has accepted the U.S. plan, Abdullah remains skeptical of the audit and power-sharing government. Some diplomats in the region also oppose sharing power too widely as occurs in other parliamentary systems. Without a strong central leadership, their fear is that Afghan’s ethnic and tribal based politics could lead to greater fractionalism, already seen in this election,  and collapse of the government.