The Slatest

Afghanistan Finally Has a New President but Vote Totals Kept Secret

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai shake hands after signing a power-sharing agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Sunday.

Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

After months of tensions due to accusations of fraud from both sides, Afghanistan’s election commission finally named a new president on Sunday, hours after the two leading candidates signed a power-sharing deal that was seen as the only way to resolve all the legal wrangling that followed the April and June elections. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was named as the winner of the election while Abdullah Abdullah would be the next chief executive, which will give him powers very similar to that of a prime minister. But in the announcement, the commission withheld details about the number of votes each candidate received “despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government,” notes the New York Times.

Keeping the vote totals under wraps appears to have been a key part of the power-sharing deal because Abdullah says the election has been broadly tainted by fraud. The head of the country’s election commission said the results would be provided at a later date but did not specify when that would be and acknowledged the audit was not enough to weed out all the vote-rigging. “Although the audit was comprehensive … (it) could not detect or throw out fraud completely,” he said, according to Reuters. Although some were quick to see it as a glass-half-full situation, emphasizing that it was Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of power, “democracy advocates were aghast at the whole process,” details the Times. Considering all the fraud that even the organizers recognize took place during the election, “to persuade people to come back and vote again will be very hard,” said Nader Nadery, chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan.

Under the deal signed earlier Sunday, Ghani and Abdullah will share control over the leadership of key institutions. The BBC’s David Loyn explains:

The new Afghan government will have a cabinet of ministers, including the CEO and two deputies, chaired by the president who will take strategic decisions. Day-to-day administration will be carried out by a new Council of Ministers, chaired by the CEO, and including all ministers.

One major issue that divided both camps was over appointments. Abdullah Abdullah won the fight to be able to appoint senior positions on terms of “parity” with Ashraf Ghani, and “the two teams will be equally represented at the leadership level.”

But appointments further down will be “equitably” shared—so there will not be a one-for-one handout of jobs across the country. Ashraf Ghani is impatient to make major reforms, and has secured the wording he wants on the formation of a “merit-based” mechanism to appoint senior officials.