Leading Afghan newspapers voiced cautious optimism after a U.S. intervention prompted by security developments in Afghanistan and the Middle East sped up post-election consensus building between the two
Candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have agreed to set aside their political differences and focus on sharing power in the next government following an unannounced visit to Kabul by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry August 7-8. After issuing a statement on future collaboration, Abdullah and Ghani joined Kerry in a joint press conference outlining plans for a “unity government” based on the results of an ongoing vote recount. The agreement would also establish the post of a “Chief Executive Officer” for the losing candidate, thus granting both political camps representation.
“Today, we signed a joint statement where we specified the basis for joint work in the future,” Abdullah told journalists.
Ghani said the situation in Afghanistan and some countries in the region, including Syria and Iraq, compelled the candidates to cooperate, and stressed political consensus is a prerequisite for stability in Afghanistan. “Our commitment is within the frame and values of the Constitution,” he added. “We want to implement a national program which is going to happen through a unity government.”
Kerry, who previously visited Kabul last month to bring the two feuding political camps to the negotiating table, emphasized the new government would be in line with the current constitution and would not change the presidential system to a parliamentary one. He added the new president should be inaugurated by Sept. 4 in time to represent Afghanistan at the next NATO summit.
Hasht-e-Subh Daily praised Kerry for preventing the electoral crisis from escalating, adding that a speedy election audit would avoid further chaos. “A unity government will create an environment where no one feels marginalized,” the daily wrote.
Mandogar Daily described the agreement between the two presidential candidates as hopeful and wrote that Kerry came to Kabul to allay public concerns regarding the United States’ planned military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Arman-e-Milli Daily noted that Kerry’s previous visit had perpetuated political disagreements between Abdullah and Ghani, making a power sharing agreement seem implausible. In his second visit, Kerry managed to extinguish the flames the candidates had created, wrote daily Sokhan-e-Jadeed. The remianing disappointment was that the two candidates continued to harm the Afghan public by prolonging the electoral deadlock, the daily added.
Meanwhile, political analysts lauded Kerry for creating a framework for cooperation between the two campaign teams.
In a roundtable discussion on Ariana News, women’s rights activist Fatana Gaylani said the lengthy elections process disappointed the people of Afghanistan, but Kerry had managed to end it. She also accused the Afghan government of interfering in the electoral process and said that President Hamid Karzai is playing with people’s future.
If Kerry’s first visit specified the framework for cooperation between the two campaign teams, his second trip specified how such cooperation should look, Kabul-based journalist Samay Daraee said on Ariana News. “The objective of [Kerry’s] second trip [to Afghanistan] was essentially trust-building, since the cooperative environment essentially faded away after his first visit,” he added.
Representatives from both political camps downplayed Kerry’s role in the new agreement, emphasizing the United States had not pressured them to sign it. The candidates met before Kerry arrived in Kabul and prepared the content of the statement, Ghani’s spokesman Karimullah Sargand said on Tolo News.
Toofan Wazeer, a representative of Abdullah’s campaign team, said both teams decided to sign the agreement because the country was in a critical situation and the Afghan people had demanded a solution.
In the same discussion, journalist Mojeebullah Sharif claimed that both presidential candidates met but could not reach an agreement without Kerry’s involvement.
Counting the losses
Meanwhile, the incumbent government expressed concerns over the political damage and economic losses Afghanistan had incurred as a result of the deadlock. On the day of Kerry’s visit, President Karzai met with Yan Kobish, the United Nations’ Special Representative to Afghanistan and said the final election result should be announced by the end of this month.
On August 4, the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan announced that the lengthy election process caused the national government’s income to drop by twenty-five percent. In a separate statement August 7, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said trade had decreased seven percent due to the electoral crisis.
“Unfortunately, the election process has gone longer than it should have,” said ministry spokesman Mosafer Qoqandi. "It has taken more than five months now and has had negative impact.”