Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory on Tuesday in Afghanistan’s disputed election, blaming fraud for putting him behind in preliminary results as fears rise of instability and ethnic unrest.
Abdullah told a rally of thousands of rowdy supporters in Kabul that he would fight on to win the presidency, but he called for patience from loyalists who demanded he declare a “parallel government” to rule the country.
“We are proud, we respect the votes of the people, we were the winner,” Abdullah said. “Without any doubt or hesitation, we will not accept a fraudulent result, not today, not tomorrow, never.”
Before he spoke, a huge photograph of President Hamid Karzai was ripped down from the stage — underlining the boiling anger among many of Abdullah’s supporters after the preliminary result in favour of poll rival Ashraf Ghani.
The election stand-off has sparked concern that protests could spiral into ethnic violence and even lead to a return to the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-1996 civil war.
But Abdullah called for the country to remain unified as it faces a difficult transfer of power, after Karzai’s 13-year rule ends and as 50,000 US-led troops wind down their battle against Taliban insurgents.
“We don’t want partition of Afghanistan, we want to preserve national unity and the dignity of Afghanistan,” he said. “We don’t want civil war. We want stability, not division.”
Earlier, the United States issued a strong warning to Abdullah over reports that he would form a “parallel government” in defiance of the results from the run-off election — which said Ghani took 56.4 percent of the vote to Abdullah’s 43.5 percent.
Any power grab would cost the country international aid, Washington said.