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Afghan presidential candidates commit to expedited vote audit

With Afghanistan's presidential vote audit resumed, presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani recommitted to the process on Friday and agreed to accelerate the timeline.
By JC Finley   |   Aug. 8, 2014 at 2:13 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Afghan's two presidential candidates recommitted Friday to a vote audit agreed to last month that has been slow-moving.

The audit will determine which candidate from the June 14 run-off election succeeds President Hamid Karzai. Preliminary election results showed former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead with 56.44 percent of the vote, and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailing behind with 43.56 percent.

Following consultations with U.S. and United Nations officials, Abdullah and Ghani released a joint statement that agreed to a joint commission to "finalize a timeline for the electoral process."

Appearing at a press conference alongside Ghani and Secretary of State John Kerry, Abdullah told reporters "We are working for a shared goal, and we are committed to working together for the sake and interests of Afghanistan... One will win, and the other will be second, but we will have full cooperation."

Abdullah's comments reflect a changed tone from earlier, very vocal, concerns that he and Ghani expressed concerning transparency and corruption during the election. The audit was temporarily suspended earlier this month amid concerns by both camps of electoral fraud and the process of discounting suspicious ballots. The audit resumed on August 3 after assurances and accommodations by the U.N.

Kerry arrived in Kabul on Thursday to encourage Abdullah and Ghani to accelerate the audit process and finalize the political framework agreement.

Ghani referenced the tension during the campaign and emphasized that the focus now is on forming a future to replace "dangerous uncertainty." Looking at his opponent, Ghani said "We trust each other... What unites us now is far greater than what divided us during the campaign."

Both candidates expressed their commitment to finalizing the audit as soon as possible, respecting the results, and establishing a government of national unity.

Under the agreement, the winner will serve as president and the runner-up as chief executive.

Audit results could be finalized by the end of the month.

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