Afghan election deal on brink of failure

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah isn't waiting for this week's election audit results to declare himself the victor, throwing into doubt the country's first peaceful transfer of power.

Abdullah is challenging former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to replace sitting President Hamid Karzai, but the process has been rife with accusations of voter fraud.


Secretary of State John Kerry announced in July that both candidates had agreed to abide by the results of the "largest, most comprehensive audit" possible, following heavy personal lobbying by Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama. Under the deal, international supervisors were slated to examine every vote cast in the runoff election, and both candidates agreed to form a national unity government if they prevail.

But with the country's elections commission slated to announce those results in a few days, Abdullah — who also lost in 2009 amid allegations of voter fraud — says he is walking away from the deal.

"We are the winners of the election based on the real vote of the people," Abdullah said, according to The Associated Press, accusing the election board of unjustly favoring Ahmadzai.

Abdullah added that "the political process has reached a deadlock," and he was reviewing his possible paths forward "based on consultations with the people."

Earlier this summer, Abdullah's protesters launched violent protests in some of Afghanistan's biggest cities over initial returns that showed Ahmadzai as the victor. At the time, the demonstrators urged Abdullah to form a breakaway government.

If the situation escalates further, it could put in jeopardy a security agreement enabling U.S. trips to remain in Afghanistan over the next year. Both candidates had agreed to a plan that would allow 10,000 troops to remain to help train Afghan security forces, which continue to fight against the Taliban, but chaos in the government could force an early withdrawal.

President Obama called both presidential candidates on Sunday, urging them to conclude "a deal on the national unity government as soon as possible in the interest of shoring up international support for Afghanistan and preserving Afghan stability," according to the White House.

During a press conference following the NATO summit last week, Obama called on the candidates "to make the compromises that are necessary so Afghans can move forward together and form a sovereign, united and democratic nation."