Independent Election Commission announces poll results will not be released until Nov. 14
Preliminary results from Afghanistan’s presidential elections have been delayed for nearly a month, officials announced on Sunday, a lengthy postponement likely to stoke political uncertainty and allegations of fraud.
Afghans went to the polls for a first-round vote on Sept. 28, and initial results were supposed to have been released on Oct. 19. But more than a week after saying the Independent Election Commission would miss that deadline, commission chairwoman Hawa Alam Nuristani said the results now would not be released until Nov. 14.
“We have already apologized for missing the date, but this doesn’t mean failure,” Nuristani told reporters. “This [election] is a fate-determining issue in the country and we cannot accept sacrificing transparency for speed.”
Election officials cited several technical issues slowing the counting of ballots, including an attempt from unknown quarters to hack the central system of Dermalog, the German company that provided biometric machines designed to prevent duplicate votes.
In one bizarre incident, two police officers who were purportedly escaping chilly temperatures slept inside the main election data center, which is supposed to be sealed, prompting howls of outrage from the team of key candidate Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
This year’s election is considered a two-horse race between him and President Ashraf Ghani. The two squared off in 2014, with Ghani eventually named winner after a bitter campaign that was marred by violence and allegations of systemic fraud.
It was only after U.S. involvement that Ghani and Abdullah agreed to a power-sharing setup that has only deepened their mutual contempt.
Last month’s election saw record low turnout and took place against the backdrop of a Taliban campaign of violence and weeks after President Donald Trump abruptly ended talks with the insurgents under which the United States would withdraw troops.
Ghani had sharply criticized the draft deal. Days ahead of the election, the Trump administration cut $160 million in direct funding to Afghan authorities, citing corruption.