Kabul protest by supporters of candidate Abdullah Abdullah over fraud in presidential poll

Fears grow of unrest erupting if Afghan former foreign minister loses poll

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 4:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 4:57am


Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah held protests in the streets of Kabul yesterday as fears grow of unrest erupting over alleged fraud in the run-off election a week ago.

Abdullah has boycotted the vote count, pitching Afghanistan into a political crisis as Nato troops withdraw from a 13-year war against Taliban insurgents.

The former foreign minister accused rival Ashraf Ghani, outgoing President Hamid Karzai and election authorities of all committing fraud to deny him victory.

Reports of the ongoing vote count suggest Ghani is well ahead in a surprise comeback after finishing behind Abdullah in the first-round election on April 5.

The protests began peacefully as scores of activists marched through Kabul streets, shouting slogans and carrying banners that read, "Fraudsters should be put on trial" and, "We will defend our vote to the last drop of our blood".

An early morning suicide attack in the city targeted Masoom Stanekzai, a senior official at the government body responsible for exploring peace talks with the Taliban.

Police said Stanekzai escaped the blast uninjured, but one civilian was killed and three hurt.

The UN mission last week warned that if candidates "abandon the legal process and framework and appeal directly to supporters it could incite violence".

"Some people have already called for civil disobedience," it warned.

In a move that could lessen tension, Karzai on Friday backed Abdullah's calls for the UN to mediate an end to the deadlock.

"The disputes and doubts arising during the election process are a natural thing," Karzai added. "It is fine and calm in the country."

Abdullah has alleged that the run-off election turnout of seven million was exaggerated and that in several provinces there were more votes than eligible voters.

A smooth election is seen as a key benchmark for the US-led coalition that has fought against the Taliban and donated billions of dollars in aid since 2001.