Auditing of ballots in Afghan polls not end of impasse: US

The agreement between the two Afghan presidential candidates on auditing of ballots by US-led international team is the beginning of a "very arduous" process and is not the end of the current political impasse, a senior American official said on Monday.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014, 00:31 AM IST

Washington: The agreement between the two Afghan presidential candidates on auditing of ballots by US-led international team is the beginning of a "very arduous" process and is not the end of the current political impasse, a senior American official said on Monday.

"Everyone recognises that this is not the end of the road. It`s just the beginning of another process that will be very arduous in its own right. And so there are many, many things that will be problematic in both of these tracks," the senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

The US served as a key broker in Saturday`s breakthrough in Kabul which saw Afghanistan`s rival claimants to the presidency, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, agree to an audit of all votes cast.
Noting that there will be any number of technical issues that come up during the counting and auditing of ballots, the official said this is a very nascent democracy without the really mature institutions to deal with a close election.

"We always hope in elections that they`re not this razor close because problems like this evolve. When it`s a democracy like this, it`s even harder. So absolutely there will be a very bumpy ride on the technical side," the official said on condition on anonymity.

The agreement between the two rival presidential candidates was reached following hours of talks by the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"The fundamental thing that he (Kerry) said to both of them was that the future of Afghanistan is dependent on you two trying to find a way forward, and it involves a short-term way forward in terms of the legitimacy of these elections, that no one can govern if these elections are not seen as legitimate.

"There`s too much work to be done to be able to govern without that credibility; and in the medium to longer term, a way to address these inherent fissures in Afghan society," the official said.

"So it is up to you to sketch out these parameters on how it works, but this is what you told me and this is what I think could be an outline for how to move forward," the official said of what Kerry told the Afghan presidential polls candidates.

Crediting both candidates with remarkable displays of leadership throughout this process, the US official said Abdullah and Ghani entered into discussions in real good faith, in a spirit of compromise and willingness to move their own constituencies forward and towards a path of moderation.

"They both did it out of a heartfelt passion and commitment to the future of Afghanistan and making sure that all that collectively we have worked for over the last 13 years in terms of the international community and US commitment of lives and very, very significant resources, and what Afghans have really fought for over the last 13 years was not lost during this transition period," the official said.

The transition period would be "quite historic in terms of transition from one democratically elected government to the next," the official said.