John Kerry warns Afghan aid may stop if there is an illegitimate power grab
John Kerry urges full review after initial results are challenged by losing candidate
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned yesterday that any illegitimate attempt to seize power in Afghanistan would cost the country its international aid, after preliminary results of presidential elections sparked a row between the two candidates.
Initial results released on Monday showed former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani had won the election, but his poll rival, Abdullah Abdullah, claimed victory yesterday, blaming fraud for placing him as the runner-up.
"We are proud, we respect the votes of the people, we were the winner," Abdullah told thousands of cheering supporters gathered in Kabul. "We will not accept a fraudulent result - not today, not tomorrow, never."
Fraud allegations immediately triggered a dispute and stoked concerns of instability after the figures showed Ghani collected 56.4 per cent of the run-off vote against ex-foreign minister Abdullah's 43.5 per cent.
Kerry warned: "I have noted reports of protests in Afghanistan and of suggestions of a 'parallel government' with the gravest concern. The United States expects Afghan electoral institutions to conduct a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities.
"Any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community."
Turnout on June 14 was more than 8 million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million, far higher than expected.
The next president will lead Afghanistan at a pivotal time. The fragile economy is struggling with declining international aid, and the Taliban has underlined its strength with a major offensive in Helmand. Militants claimed responsibility for a suicide attack yesterday that killed 16 people, including four Nato soldiers, in Parwan, north of Kabul.
Independent Election Commission head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani said there would be auditing and adjudication of complaints, before the official result was released on about July 24.
He said: "The preliminary result in no way means the announcement of the winner … A change in the result is possible.
"We cannot deny fraud and violations … In some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like governors or lower-level officials were involved."