Amid reports of widespread fraud and the possibility the entire Afghan presidential election will be delegitimized, President Obama on Tuesday called candidate Abdullah Abdullah and urged him to remain involved in the electoral process, rather than declare himself the winner and potentially throw the nation into chaos.
Mr. Abdullah told his supporters on Monday that he will claim victory in the contest, even though Afghanistan’s former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is significantly ahead in the current vote count.
The country’s Independent Election Commission has said no winner can be declared right now because millions of ballots are being audited for fraud, the Associated Press reported, casting a dark cloud of uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future.
The winner of the election will replace President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the U.S. toppled the Taliban government following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The White House says it’s imperative both candidates allow the process to play itself out and let allegations of voter fraud be investigated fully before either man attempts to take the reins of power.
“The forceful message the president delivered was to ask Mr. Abdullah to remain engages in the process,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “The important principle that is at play here is that the Afghan people should have a say, in fact they should be able to determine, the leadership of their country. In order to do that, we need to have agreed-upon processes in place to conduct those elections … The way to determine [the winner] definitively is for the prewritten rules that guide this process to be followed by both sides.”