Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates have agreed to a complete audit of the contested presidential election that will determine the country’s next president, the Associated Press reports.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry oversaw the deal between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Whoever receives the most votes will be declared the winner, and will succeed current President Hamid Karzai, who has agreed to remain president until the dispute is resolved. They have both also agreed to a national unity government. A national unity government will make sure to include all political parties in the legislature.
Kerry also met with Karzai and Jan Kubis, the U.N. chief in Afghanistan.
The deal was reached on Saturday after two days of negotiations, and will help prevent the growing discord caused by both candidates claiming victory. This tumult would have potentially caused a split in the government and security forces along ethnic and regional lines.
The audit will be 100 percent internationally supervised and will cover all 8 million ballots cast in the election. It will take a “number of weeks,” and will start with ballot boxes in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Representatives from both campaigns will help oversee the process.
Both candidates commented after the audit was announced. Abdullah described the election as having “serious challenges” and Ghani praised the agreement, “Our aim is simple: We’re committed to the most thorough audit,” and “stability is the desire of everyone.”
Kerry and Karzai also spoke about the deal at the Presidential Palace on Sunday. Kerry praised the two candidates for working together. “We hope that the promise of the next weeks will deliver the authenticity and credibility that the people of Afghanistan deserve.”
With President Barack Obama announcing the complete withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan by 2016, leaving only an embassy and a small military contigent to train and aid the Afghan army, Afghanistan will be left in a vulnerable position. The Taliban continue to wage an insurgency in the country, which may be exacerbated when there is no longer a formidable U.S. presence. The political battle between Ghani and Abdullah has raised concerns that the Afghan government will not be capable of fighting the Taliban or dealing with terrorist groups like al-Qaida. (RELATED: Obama To Withdraw All Troops From Afghanistan By 2016)
But unlike President Karzai, both Ghani and Abdullah have agreed to sign a bilateral security pact with the U.S.