Both rivals in Afghanistan's presidential election claim victory in a repeat of 2014

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Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah casts his vote at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan September 28, 2019. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have both claimed victory in a weekend presidential election, a scene reminiscent of the last vote in 2014.

Though preliminary overall results aren't expected for another three weeks, Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul on September 30 that by his count, he won such a clear-cut victory in the balloting that a second-round runoff won't be needed.

That followed a claim by Ghani's running mate, Amrullah Saleh, that the incumbent had won a clear first-ballot victory.

"The information that we have received shows that 60 to 70 percent of people voted [for] us," Saleh was quoted by Voice of America as saying.

Neither side offered any evidence to back up their claims, raising concerns that the war-torn country is headed for a similar situation that arose from the 2014 election, where the same two candidates made competing claims of victory.


That led to months of turmoil that was ultimately settled through a power-sharing deal brokered by the United States that brought a deeply unpopular and fractured national-unity government to power.

"The situation in 2014 was different. We were the winning team at that time," Abdullah said on September 30.

"Now it is 2019 and I have announced, and I am reiterating, that only legal votes will be accepted by us," he added.

Fifteen candidates were on the ballot in the September 28 election, but the contest was widely seen as a two-horse race between Abdullah, 59, and Ghani, 70.

In a statement on September 30, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini called on the candidates to respect the electoral timeline.

"We expect that the candidates exercise restraint, await the official announcement of preliminary and final results by [Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, IEC] and submit any evidence-based complaints through the established institutional complaints mechanism," Mogherini said.

Around 9.6 million Afghans were registered to vote in the election, the fourth presidential vote since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001.

The IEC said late on September 29 that it had counted more than 1.1 million votes in the election, which was marred by a spate of militant attacks across the country and reports of problems at polling stations.

The commission has said that an unofficial estimate of voter turnout in the election shows that a little more than 2 million voters cast ballots -- a sharp drop from the roughly 7 million who turned out for the last presidential election in 2014.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.


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