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Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah alleges vote fraud

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 8:54 p.m.
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah says his campaign team has “no confidence or trust in the election bodies.”

KABUL, Afghanistan — Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday demanded that Afghan electoral authorities stop counting ballots from a weekend runoff vote, citing new allegations of widespread fraud. The election commission refused and appealed to all sides to await final results.

The discord set the stage for a showdown that could threaten Afghanistan's first transfer of authority as a democracy.

Abdullah, a onetime aide to a famed warlord during the Afghan anti-Soviet guerrilla campaign, said monitors deployed by his campaign to the polls had recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities. He announced his team was suspending relations with the Independent Election Commission, accusing it of interfering in the vote and inflating turnout figures.

The finger-pointing in the June 14 election pitting Abdullah against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai mars what Western officials had hoped would be an important step toward democracy for the troubled country as the U.S.-led coalition winds down its 13-year combat mission. Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the United States that would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to stay in the country beyond the end of this year to train Afghan security forces and perform counterterrorism operations.

President Hamid Karzai, the only leader the country has known since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban, was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Abdullah's team has said its exit polling shows Ahmadzai with a 1 million-vote lead in the current round and claimed election workers and government officials had engineered fraud to help him.

“We announce that we have no confidence or trust in the election bodies,” Abdullah said at a news conference. “The counting process should stop immediately and if that continues, it will have no legitimacy.”

In Washington, at a Senate hearing on Afghanistan, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan counseled patience in light of the controversy over the second-round vote.

“It's going to be some time before we know the outcome,” James Dobbins said. “It's going to be a difficult several weeks.”

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