JUDY WOODRUFF: In Afghanistan, election officials today announced interim results in the recent presidential elections, but they also said no winner can be declared yet because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.Jeffrey Brown has the story.
JEFFREY BROWN: The preliminary results came nearly a month after Afghan voters went to the polls in the presidential runoff. The national election commission announced former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani won 56 percent of the vote. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailed with 43 percent, a reversal of the double-digit lead he’d held after the first round.
AHMAD YOUSUF NOURISTANI, Chairman, Independent Election Commission (through translator): I want to emphasize that the preliminary result announcement is not the announcement of the winner of the election. There is the possibility of changing the results after auditing the votes and reviewing the complaints and objections.
JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, the commission acknowledged there had been fraud, and announced it will audit ballots from nearly 7,000 of 23,000 polling stations.
Ghani’s followers celebrated, but Abdullah has refused to accept any results until a full investigation is completed. He spoke yesterday in Kabul.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Presidential Candidate, Afghanistan (through interpreter): We will not accept those results until clean votes are separated from unclean votes. Nobody doubts that there was fraud in Afghanistan’s elections. There was a mass and organized fraud, a fraud that the independent election commission was involved in.
JEFFREY BROWN: Abdullah also accuses current President Hamid Karzai, who is term-limited, of trying to rig the outcome in Ghani’s favor.
The claims are reminiscent of widespread fraud in the 2009 election, when Karzai defeated Abdullah.
In Washington today, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki agreed it’s vital to investigate the current results.
JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: Right now, our focus is on encouraging a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities. We think that’s essential to ensuring that the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.
JEFFREY BROWN: Resolving the election dispute is also essential to getting a bilateral agreement that keeps a small American force in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
About 33,000 U.S. troops are still there. Most will leave at the end of this year, but some 9,800 would stay on to train Afghans, if there’s an agreement governing their presence.
Karzai has refused to sign the pact, but both Ghani and Abdullah have said they would sign it. The final election results are due July 22.