Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory yesterday over incumbent Ashraf Ghani in the weekend’s presidential election, far ahead of the release of any official results.
The move is likely to stir political tensions across Afghanistan and brings to mind the election Abdullah and his top rival Ghani bitterly contested in 2014 that sparked a constitutional crisis and prompted US intervention.
“We have the most votes in this election,” Abdullah said at a news conference, without providing evidence.
“The results will be announced by the IEC (Independent Election Commission), but we have the most votes. The election is not going to go to a second round.”
Abdullah’s announcement came after one of Ghani’s running mates, Amrullah Saleh, on Sunday claimed to have garnered the lion’s share of votes.
“According to our information, 60 to 70 percent of the people have voted for our team,” Saleh told Voice of America’s Dari- and Pashto-language services.
The claims come even before the IEC has finished tallying turnout from Saturday’s election, with hundreds of polling centres still unreported.
Preliminary results are not due until October 19, and if the leading candidate doesn’t secure more than 50 percent of the vote the top two will run off in a second round.
Almost immediately, senior IEC official Habib Rahman Nang slammed Abdullah’s announcement as premature.
“No candidate has the right to declare himself the winner,” Nang said. “According to the law, it is the IEC that decides who is the winner.”
Abdullah, who is seeking the presidency for the third time after losing in 2009 and 2014, said his team would “make the new government”.
Without giving details, Abdullah also mentioned reports of “some government officials” meddling in the election process.
His remarks follow the release on social media of several videos purporting to show election workers stuffing ballots in favour of Ghani.
Shortly after Abdullah’s comments, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on candidates to respect the electoral timeline.
The IEC’s complaints division head, Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, said the panel had so far received 2,569 complaints.
Previous Afghan polls have been marred by widespread allegations of systemic fraud, so the stakes are high for the IEC, which has promised a clean process this year with rigorous steps to curtail cheating.