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Afghan Election Crisis Deepens After New Abdullah Boycott

Afghan Presidential Contenders Abdullah Abdullah (R) and Ashraf Ghani
Afghan Presidential Contenders Abdullah Abdullah (R) and Ashraf Ghani

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the UN-supervised audit of ballots from the country's June 14 runoff, casting the disputed election deeper into disarray and clouding the chances for a swift resolution.

Abdullah's deputy campaign manager Muhammadullah Haidari told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on August 27 that Abdullah's team would return to the process if their demands are met, but would not accept any decision made in their absence.

Another senior member of Abdullah's campaign team had called the audit process a "joke", saying on August 26 that the candidate's demands over how fraudulent votes should be discarded had been ignored.

The complicated audit of the 8 million votes has been underway in Kabul for weeks. It is meant to help determine who won the runoff, in which both Abdullah and his rival, Ashraf Ghani, claimed victory amid allegations of massive electoral fraud.

Shortly after Abdullah's withdrawal, the United Nations asked Ghani's team to pull out its representatives from the audit in the interests of fairness.

Dawood Sultanzai, a member of Ghani's campaign, confirmed the team complied with the UN request after Abdullah's team failed to show up on August 27.

Ghani's team also expressed "regret" over the boycott

Nicholas Haysom, deputy head of the UN office in Kabul said the recount is continuing in the presence of domestic and international monitors.

He said all demands and concerns brought forward by Abdullah's team will be thoroughly examined and addressed.

Sultanzai said Ghani's team demands "the audit process take place intensely, and the election results should be announced as soon as possible."

Abdullah's boycott raises the prospect that his supporters may reject the final official result and seems to increase the likelihood of political violence in the conflict-torn country, where government and NATO-led forces are fighting Taliban insurgents.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, won the most votes out of a field of eight candidates in the first round of the election in April.

However, the preliminary results from the runoff showed that he was far behind Ghani, a former finance minister.

President Hamid Karzai's office said Karzai met with Abdullah and Ghani late on August 26.

The statement said they discussed the election process but gave no further details.

Karzai has said his successor must be sworn in on September 2 as scheduled.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

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