Abdullah deadline puts Afghan election in peril
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks at a rally in Kabul on July 8, 2014 - by Shah Marai
Abdullah claims that fraud cheated him of victory in the June 14 election, and fears have risen of a return to unrest of the 1990s civil war after his supporters called on him to form a "parallel government".
As tensions threatened to boil over, the United States brokered a deal between Abdullah and his rival Ashraf Ghani in which they agreed to an audit of all eight million votes and the formation of a post-election national unity government.
But Abdullah's spokesman Fazel Aqa Hussain Sancharaki said his team was on the brink of abandoning both parts of the deal -- potentially plunging Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power into further turmoil.
"Our patience is running out, any announcement of results made by the fraudulent election commission will be rejected by us," Sancharaki told reporters.
"We are setting this deadline -- that if tomorrow our logical demands of transparent auditing and an honest political process are not met, we will completely boycott the whole process."
Last week Abdullah pulled out of the audit, but had said difficult negotiations on the national unity government were still under way.
The talks have floundered over the new role of "chief executive officer" who will serve under the president.
- A risky stalemate -
"The problem is that (Abdullah's) team wants more authority for the chief executive, for him to be like a prime minister," Tahir Zaheer, a spokesman for the Ghani campaign, told AFP, denying negotiations had already collapsed.
"These threats of an ultimatum will not change anything, there are no logic in them. They have to be realistic."
Abdullah won the first-round election in April out of a field of eight candidates, but preliminary results from the June run-off showed that he was far behind Ghani.
Any street protests by aggrieved Abdullah supporters could set off a spiral of instability.
Many of Ghani's supporters are Pashtuns in the south and east, while Abdullah's loyalists are Tajiks and other northern groups.
Western nations, which have sent tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars worth of aid to Afghanistan since 2001, still hope that a credible election will be a symbol of progress made since the hardline Taliban era.
The absence of a new president means that only the defence minister is likely to attend a NATO summit of world leaders who will decide on future support for the country.
NATO's combat mission against the Taliban ends this year and the summit, starting in Britain on Thursday, is set to sign off on funding and a follow-up mission widely seen as crucial to maintaining fragile nationwide stability.
Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has declined to attend, with Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi to appear alongside US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
NATO members had repeatedly stressed that a new president should attend the summit to prove that the country is becoming a functioning state after more than a decade of military and civilian aid.
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