Kabul, March 9 (IANS) Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was set to take oath for his second five-year term on Monday amid wrangling with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has threatened a parallel inauguration ceremony.
“The oath-taking ceremony of the elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will be held this afternoon,” Efe news quoted Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi as saying in a tweet.
Ghani’s function was originally scheduled early Monday morning at the Presidential Palace in Kabul but was delayed after the two warring sides engaged into a last-minute dialog, mediated by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to end the stalemate.
Abdullah, however, refused to budge, saying “invalidation of all fraudulent votes” in the September 28, 2019 polls was “the way out” of the impasse.
“No one should have underestimated our commitment to genuine democracy & our resolve to uphold the rule of law. Our track record of self-denial & compromise should not have given cause to anyone to take us for granted,” Abdullah tweeted.
Murtaza Eshraqi, one of Abdullah’s aides, said they were also ready for a planned swearing-in ceremony.
“As the Presidential Palace postponed their oath-taking ceremony till around 2 pm, therefore our ceremony is also postponed,” Eshraqi told Efe news, adding they were informed about the delay in Ghani’s ceremony by Khalilzad.
Another of Abdullah’s aides told Efe that representatives of the two sides “are still in talks to find a solution”. “If they fail to find a way out, we will hold our oath-taking ceremony.”
The dispute over who should rule the war-ravaged nation over the next five years began after the controversial presidential polls last year.
The crisis deepened as the new government was expected to prepare for talks with the Taliban on March 10, as a follow up to the Feb.29 peace agreement between the US and the insurgents over the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The country’s election commission announced on February 18 that Ghani had won the polls.
But his closest political rival, Chief Executive Abdullah, who was declared the runner-up in the official results, has refused to accept his defeat and claimed victory.
Abdullah’s camp even tried to install governors in some provinces in northern Afghanistan, triggering fears of political instability and a repeat of 2014, when his supporters had held violent protests over electoral results.
On September 28, 2019, only 2.7 million of the 9.6 million people eligible to vote turned out at polling places, a very low turnout rate mainly due to continued threats from the Taliban and people’s mistrust of the electoral process.
Of the total votes cast, 1.92 million were bio-metrically verified and of these only 1.8 million were declared valid by the commission.
Abdullah’s campaign has been alleging since the start of the vote count that some 300,000 fraudulent or suspicious ballots had been cast to favour Ghani.