Thousands of supporters of presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah marched on the Kabul streets on Friday to protest alleged poll fraud committed to favour incumbent President Ashraf Ghani amid a delay in declaring preliminary results of the election held two months ago.
The impasse has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Abdullah’s base of support is with the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, while Ghani is Pashtun, the largest group.
It also comes at a dangerous time, with the Taliban insurgency still raging and most NATO-led forces preparing to leave the country by the end of the year.
The rallies began around 8 a.m. (local time) from various parts of the Afghan capital and the marchers were headed towards the center of the city, Murtaza Eshraqi, a spokesperson for Abdullah’s electoral team, told EFE.
“We demand that the election commission should act as per the law, and should stop its illegal decisions. Our main objection is against the counting of 300,000 fraudulent votes that should be invalidated,” Eshraqi said.
The result of the September 28 vote was to be declared on October 19 but had to be postponed until November 14 due to technical problems.
Abdullah’s supporters have boycotted the auditing and recounting process as protesters blocked election officials in at least seven of the 34 provinces from completing the process that would decide who among the contenders had won a majority in the first round or whether the voting needed to go to a runoff.
Around 15,000 people joined the protest, according to police and Reuters witnesses. Some demonstrated their outrage by destroying posters of Karzai and shouting angry slogans against the president and the independent election commission.
Abdullah’s team had held similar protests in 2014 after presidential elections marred by fraud allegations ended in a tense impasse between Ghani and Abdullah before they decided to form a power-sharing government under a deal brokered by the United States.
Abdullah is also a senior member of the political outfit that was among other mujahideen groups at the forefront of the war against the Soviets.
(With inputs from agency)