U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Kabul July 11 to mediate a meeting between the two presidential candidates, current President Hamid Karzai, and monitoring organizations based in Afghanistan and abroad. By the night of July 13, Kerry finally made headway, facilitating a public hug by the rival candidates.
Abdullah and Ghani agreed on a recount of all votes and pledged to accept the result no matter who wins. All votes are to be recounted in Kabul in the presence of observers representing the candidates as well as the international community. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will transport the votes from various provinces. The agreement also includes a power-sharing option and the formation of an inclusive government representing the wishes of all voters, to be overseen by the winning candidate.
This was Kerry’s second intervention in an Afghan election. As senator, Kerry helped broker a post-election agreement in 2009, when Abdullah unsuccessfully challenged Karzai for the presidency.
Karzai, whose relations with Abdullah have remained strained, welcomed the July 13 agreement and expressed hopes the recount begins immediately. “The people of Afghanistan are patiently looking forward to their next president and their future government,” he said in a joint news conference with Kerry and Yan Kobish, the United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan. “There has been some delay in governmental work. Our hope is that the recount… is completed as soon as possible. It will allow us to plan the inauguration ceremony.”
“The guns have been lowered”
Hasht-e-Subh Daily described the agreement as historic and wrote that Kerry’s tough and long negotiating bore result. The Afghan public expected the international community to facilitate an agreement and save their young democracy, the daily wrote. “An agreement over the mechanism of separating clean votes from fraudulent ones was a valuable step. The political agreement on the part of the candidates was also very wise….A government based on broad social and political representation would help avoid the marginalization of any one specific group.”
Arman-e-Milli Daily noted that the responsibility for ending the crisis now lies with the election commissions, and urged the commissions to act efficiently. “The public now believe that their country will avoid a crisis. Both candidates reached an agreement based on the national interests of the country, which is necessary for the integrity of Afghanistan.”
Mandogar Daily wrote on its front page that amending the constitution and changing the political system to include a prime minister is a pivotal point in the agreement. The daily described the U.S. threats to withdraw its financial and military support from Afghanistan as effective in securing a peaceful transition of power in the country.
Saifuddin Saihun, a professor at Kabul University, took a similar stance. In a roundtable discussion on Noorin TV, Saihun stressed that although both candidates agreed on a vote recount, implementing it still seems difficult. “Pressure by the United States led to an agreement,” Saihun said, “but we all know that recounting the votes is impossible.”
Another political affairs expert, Miagul Wesq, questioned the independence of Afghan leaders. He noted the presidential candidates failed to resolve their problems and showed they could not reach an agreement without Kerry’s mediation.
It is now the responsibility of the election commissions to honestly cooperate with international observers to recount all the votes, Safia Sediqee, who ran in the first round of the election alongside Hedayat Amin Arsala, said in a roundtable discussion on Ariana News. If these commissions continue to fuel mistrust, the crisis will get more serious, she added.
Shah Hossein Murtazowi, a Facebook user, welcomed Kerry’s arbitration as “objective, influential and trustworthy.” The key to resolving this problem was in Kerry’s hand, Murtazowi wrote. “Everything is normal now. The people of Afghanistan breathe with ease. Concerns are gone and the guns have been lowered.”