Kerry warns of power grab after Afghan vote


Secretary of State John Kerry said any efforts to seize power illegally in Afghanistan could lead the U.S. to withdraw financial and security aid.

The release of preliminary election results on Monday showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai with more than a million vote lead on his chief opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, stirred mass protests in the fragile democracy.

Supporters of Abdullah, who was considered a favorite for the job, have said the results are fraudulent and threatened to seize power on their own, according to multiple media reports. The conflict has threatened to deepen sectarian divides in the country.

Kerry expressed “the gravest concerns” over reports that Abdullah could attempt to seize power outside the realm of the country's constitution. He said that the use of violence or the threat of violence was unacceptable.

“We call on all Afghan leaders to maintain calm [and] order to preserve the gains of the last decade and maintain the trust of the Afghan people,” Kerry said.

But the secretary of State also called for a “thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities” in the vote.

Earlier this month, Kerry urged sitting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to address concerns over electoral fraud.

The U.S. is concerned that instability could endanger plans to withdraw troops from the country over the next two years and undermine the Afghan electoral system.