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Afghans express relief at election deal

PTI | Last Updated: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 00:23

Kabul: Amid relief that a dangerous rift in the country`s troubled democracy has been averted, Afghan officials praised a deal between presidential contenders brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and said today they hope to finish a full ballot audit within weeks.

Kerry unveiled the breakthrough deal yesterday night, with both hopefuls promising to abide by the results of the audit, followed by plans for the winner to form a government of national unity with participation of the losing side.

The agreement followed a marathon series of shuttle meetings between the two candidates who took part in the June 14 runoff former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

The two stood by Kerry`s side when the bargain was revealed on national television and then spoke endorsing the agreement.
With many Afghans saying the deal exceeded their expectations from Kerry`s two-day mediation, the chairman of the country`s Independent Election Commission told reporters at a news conference that the commission is ready to start auditing all 8 million votes cast from 23,000 polling station within a few days and hopes to complete the process in three weeks.

Money dealers said that the value of the Afghan currency improved after the deal, and ordinary Afghan citizens in the capital and political leaders were univocal in their praise although some cautioned that it must still be implemented and that the way ahead is still difficult.

The chairman, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, said additional auditors would need to be trained, but the audit can begin this week in the presence of representatives from both candidates as well as national and international observers.
Audits can take place around the clock, with an aim of getting through about 1,000 polling stations results per day, he said.

The deal offered a path out of the impending political crisis in Afghanistan. Until Kerry stepped in, aided by UN representative Jan Kubis, both candidates had been claiming victory and even were talking of setting up competing governments.

There had been fears that a falling out between supporters of Ahmadzai and Abdullah could lead to civil war in a country already contending with a serious threat from Taliban fighters, who are in the midst of a summer offensive.

First Published: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 00:23
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