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Editorial: Higher prospects for a run-off

Although the preliminary results have been announced from the presidential ballot, election controversies and post-2019 saga are seemingly beginning to take shape. Shortly after the announcement, the Stability and Convergence electoral team led by CEO Abdullah Abdullah, along with some other electoral tickets, dubbed the results as fraudulent and unacceptable. Since the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) came into play in order to receive electoral complaints, Abdullah’s team has so far reportedly filed over 4,000 complaints, most of which could be over the 300,000 controversial votes that have been allegedly counted by the Independent Election Commission (IEC). The State Builder team led by the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani has also lodged hundreds of counter-complaints. This is while based on the primary results, Ghani has won the September 28 ballot by securing 50.64% of the votes while CEO Abdullah Abdullah stood second with 39.52% of the votes.

Given Afghanistan’s history with polls, election result announcements here are typically followed by violent protests from supporters of losing candidates. Although President Ghani is declared to be in the lead of the disputed votes, it’s premature to exchange congratulatory wishes on winning the election because numerous electoral controversies still persist. Meanwhile, this presidential ballot closely mirrors and echoes the fraud-tainted 2014 election when both Ghani and Abdullah alleged massive fraud by the other, forcing the US to broker an awkward power-sharing arrangement that made Ghani president and Abdullah his chief executive. However, those days are long gone and this time around something like that seem impossible but that doesn’t rule out an electoral saga. At this juncture, these contesting leaders should not ignore the fact that it would prove in the best interest of Afghans if they acted with decency by graciously accepting defeat or victory. Moreover, they should know that pushing alternative formulas won’t work either.

In spite of the fact that Ghani has crossed the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a run-off, it is only by a razor-thin margin of fewer than 12,000 votes. Moreover, looking at the scope of complaints and objections which need a thorough review, the prospects for a run-off are much higher. As the ball is now in the IECC court which is supposed to address and adjudicate thousands of relevant complaints and counter-complaints, this process will undoubtedly take at least two months in the best-case scenario. Moreover, the review by IECC is very likely to reduce President Ghani’s vote share to below 50 percent, something that would necessitate a second round between Ghani and Abdullah, who are the top contenders so far and are running neck and neck in this year’s election. Granted that a second round must be held – most probably in the first quarter of the next year – the electoral management bodies should allow for this possibility and thus focus their attention on preparing for such a situation. Considering this situation, the most crucial question crossing the minds of Afghans is that how this long-drawn-out process and electoral controversies would affect the Afghan peace negotiations?

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