By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Afghanistan’s election authorities have declared incumbent President Ashraf Ghani the winner of last year’s polls, but his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has contested the final official results.
The country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on February 18 that final official results from the September 28 presidential election show incumbent President Ashraf Ghani has been elected to a second five-year term with 50.64 percent of the vote.
By winning more than 50 percent of the vote, he has avoided a second-round runoff ballot.
The results come nearly five months after the election due to a lengthy recount of the ballots that was launched after Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, raised allegations of fraud in the vote-counting process.
Abdullah, who has been serving as Afghanistan’s chief executive officer as part of a national unity government, took second place with 39.52 percent of the vote, according to the IEC.
However, he later in the day contested the final official results and declared victory, vowing to form “an all-inclusive government.”
After announcing the results, which show Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of Afghanistan’s most notorious former warlords, finishing in a distant third place with 3.85 percent of the vote, IEC head Hawa Alam Nuristani said: “May God help him in serving the people of Afghanistan. I also pray that peace comes to our country.”
Ghani’s spokesman Daud Sultanzoy told RFE/RL that “the [electoral] system worked well.”
“Unfortunately, the pointless delay [in the announcement of the results] due to meaningless interferences put the Afghan people on hold and made them worry,” he added.
Abdullah’s campaign spokesman Faraidoon Khwazoon said the results announced by the IEC have “no legitimacy.”
“This announcement is unacceptable,” Khwazoon tod RFE/RL. “We stand against it.”
The election was mired by a record low turnout and bickering between Ghani and Abdullah during the campaign.
The official turnout was 1.8 million votes out of about 9 million eligible voters.
The final official results were delayed by months while election officials launched a ballot recount — including recounts in provinces where Abdullah’s supporters had stopped the process for almost a month.
By winning more than 50 percent of the vote, Ghani has avoided a second-round runoff.
Widespread allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election led to a political crisis between the top candidates, Ghani and Abdullah. That crisis was resolved by a U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement that created a fragile national unity government.
Under that deal, Ghani became president while a new office of chief executive officer was created for Abdullah.