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Delay in election audit has negative impact on Afghanistan's economy, security

04 August, 2014

KABUL: A delay in the announcement of the result of the presidential election runoff by the election commission could further put a strain on the already ailing Afghan economy, not to mention its overall impact on the security situation of the militancy-plagued country, observers here said.

Afghanistan's third presidential election since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001 was held on April 5 amid Taliban attacks which had claimed more than 200 lives, but the process went on smoothly. However, none of the eight presidential bets secured more than 50 percent of the votes and thus a runoff was conducted.

The runoff between the front-runners Abdullah Abdullah and his rival Ashraf Ghani was held on June 14 but the final outcome of the polls has yet to be announced.

"The prolonged process of vote counting has already reduced trade and economic activities in Afghanistan and further delay would greatly damage the country's economy," Khan Jan Alkozai, a deputy in the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said in talks with local media recently.

Alkozai said that because of the political impasse, the volume of trade has been reduced, local and foreign investments have decreased, and capital flight from the country has begun.

"The price of property and real estate has fallen. We had bought construction machinery at a cost of 3 billion U.S. dollars three years ago but all these machinery are now idle and rotting," Alkozai said.

The Afghan election commission on Saturday once again suspended the auditing process of votes after the representatives of Abdullah failed to show up. The audit, which was agreed to earlier by the two rival candidates, was scheduled to resume at 7:00 a.m. Saturday.

An online statement released by Abdullah's team pointed out that their observers won't attend the audit process until negotiations with the United Nations and other concerned parties are concluded.

Tolo, a spokesman from Abdullah's team, told a local television network that they hoped that in one or two days, the UN would take into account their suggestions on how to conduct the auditing process to ensure transparency and fair play.

This is the fourth time since the votes recounting and auditing started on July 17 that audit process of votes cast in Afghan presidential elections has been suspended.

In the meantime, Nilab Mubariz, a spokesperson for United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in talks with Tolo, expressed concerns over the delay in vote auditing, saying any suspension in the audit process would damage the interest of those who cast their votes in the presidential polls.

Out of 23,000 ballot boxes, reportedly 2,000 have been recounted since the start of the audit on July 17. The election commission had earlier announced that it would complete the process within three to four weeks. However, the slow process of recounting indicates that the announcement of the final result of the election would take months.

The negative impact of prolonged vote auditing process and the political uncertainty that it brought about have prompted Afghan businessmen to complain about the state of the economy.

"The prices of kitchen items have gone up and the number of our customers is decreasing by each passing day since the election standoff started," a shopkeeper, Ahmad Rassul, told Xinhua.

According to observers, the election standoff has again put Afghanistan at the crossroad of instability and may embolden the Taliban to wage more suicide attacks and sow terror and violence throughout the country.

"If the results of elections are accepted by Afghans, it would bring stability to the county but if not, the people would lose trust in the election process and the country would slide back to economic and political instability," Partao Nadiri, an analyst, said in a television discussion recently.

Afghanistan would lose many chances of getting the support of the international community, which it badly needs after the complete pullout of foreign troops late this year, if the announcement of the presidential election results would be further delayed, Nadiri said.

The new president of Afghanistan, who will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai, has to represent the county in the upcoming NATO summit in Britain and the UN General Assembly in New York.

Abdullah and Ghani have earlier committed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that they would abide by the result of the election audit. The winner would serve as president while the loser would serve as the prime minister under a unity government that the two agreed to form.


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