Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani has called for an “extensive audit” of votes.
Ashraf Ghani made the appeal before meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Kabul to try to resolve a growing political crisis.
John Kerry is also meeting Ashraf Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Ashraf Ghani came out ahead in preliminary results from the second round, but both candidates allege fraud.
The audit would help ensure the “integrity and the legitimacy that the people of Afghanistan and the world will believe in,” Ashraf Ghani said.
The announcement was welcomed by John Kerry, who arrived in Afghanistan on Friday in a hastily arranged visit.
Ashraf Ghani came out ahead in preliminary results from the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election (photo CNN)
“No one is declaring victory at this time. The results have yet to be finalized and so those questions have to be resolved and I’m very appreciative that Dr. Ghani respects that” he said.
Current President Hamid Karzai, who took power after the US-led overthrow of the Taliban, is stepping down after more than 10 years.
The US has been concerned at reports that Abdullah Abdullah, who preliminary results suggest lost the election, is planning a “parallel government”.
Results announced by Afghanistan’s election officials give Ashraf Ghani 56.44% of votes in the June 14 run-off, with Abdullah Abdullah gaining 43.45%.
The results were markedly different from those achieved in the first round of voting, held in April.
In that round, Abdullah Abdullah fell just short of an outright majority, with 44.9%, with Ashraf Ghani second at 31.5%.
Votes are already being re-checked at more than 7,000 polling stations – nearly a third of the total number.
Correspondents say recounts could significantly alter the final result, due on July 22.
The UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan has warned it will be “premature” for either side to claim victory.
There are also concerns about a further deterioration in the security situation.
Taliban militants have been testing the limits of the Afghan army in recent weeks, with a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand.
The withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of this year will be the litmus test of whether more than a decade of training and investment in building up Afghanistan’s own security forces has paid off, correspondents say.
President Barack Obama has said the US remained committed to Afghanistan provided the incoming president signed a security agreement.
Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have said they are committed to signing the deal with the US that would allow a small force to stay on.
Senior Afghan election official Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail at the centre of fraud claims in the presidential run-off vote has resigned.
Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail said he was stepping down “for the sake of national unity”, denying allegations of ballot box-stuffing earlier this month.
His resignation comes after audio tapes were released allegedly revealing that Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail was trying to influence the outcome of the vote.
They were published by the camp of one of the candidates – Abdullah Abdullah.
However, Abdullah Abdullah’s rival Ashraf Ghani has also made allegations of fraud.
Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail’s resignation comes after audio tapes were released allegedly revealing that he was trying to influence the outcome of the vote
The official results of the June 14 run-off are yet to be published.
In a dramatic turn of events on Monday, Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail tendered his resignation on national television.
He vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying he had been the victim of a plot.
Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail also described the tapes as “fake” and blamed the country’s security services for interfering in the election.
In an apparent reference to ballot box-stuffing, the tapes appear to show Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail urging a colleague to “bring the sheep stuffed and not empty”.
The reference to sheep and goats – ballot boxes and people or votes – is made several times during the recorded exchanges.
Reacting to the latest developments, Abdullah Abdullah said the resignation of Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail had opened the door for discussions with Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.
Abdullah Abdullah also said his recent decision to stop co-operating with the election authorities had not been intended to disrupt the process, but to prevent a fraudulent election result and to protect people’s votes.
Explosive audio tapes released in Afghanistan allegedly reveal a senior election official directing that ballot boxes be stuffed in the crucial presidential run-off.
The recordings, which cannot be independently verified, are believed to have come from the security services.
They have been placed in the public domain by the Abdullah Abdullah camp who refuse to disclose their source.
Fraud allegations have been made by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and by his rival Ashraf Ghani.
The audio tapes appear to reveal a partisan senior election official working in Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s interest.
However, the former World Bank executive’s team say secret recordings without a court order are illegal and must be investigated.
Audio tapes released in Afghanistan allegedly reveal a senior election official directing that ballot boxes be stuffed in the crucial presidential run-off
The audio tapes appear to capture conversations between a senior election official, Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail, and colleagues in at least four other provinces.
In an apparent reference to ballot box stuffing, the tapes appear to show Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail urging a colleague to “bring the sheep stuffed and not empty”. The reference to sheep and goats – ballot boxes and people or votes – is made several times during the recorded exchanges.
In a separate conversation, the senior official also apparently deals with concerns from a colleague in one of the north-western provinces, who warns that “others make the majority in our office”.
Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail apparently responds to him with the words “why don’t you get rid of them, take a stick and kick them all out” and goes on to suggest new officials are recruited from ethnic groups, assumed to back Ashraf Ghani.
Many awkward questions still surround the release of tapes, copies of which have now been handed to the presidency and the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
The UN, which is being urged by Abdullah Abdullah to step in and help arbitrate disputes, has also been made aware of their existence.
In a statement, the UN said the Afghan election authorities should consider the “validity, weight and implications” of the tapes and “take action in line with the principles of accountability”.
It wants the Afghans to sort out their own problems but do so in a “transparent” manner.
For the past week the IEC has been under pressure to suspend Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail pending an investigation.
An altercation between him and a senior police official on election day, after the police chief had become suspicious of his movements, was aired on Afghan TV.
Since then the cries for him to be relieved of his duties have grown louder, but so far the election body has resisted taking any action.
The election authorities simply stated that his “privacy” was protected by the constitution when asked for a comment about the tapes.
Many questions arise from these audio recordings. How were they obtained, why are they being released now and will they be admissible as “evidence” of alleged fraud?
The Abdullah Abdullah camp has tossed this explosive material into the public domain but the presidential hopeful himself has been away from the media spotlight – in sharp contrast to his public appearances earlier this week.
He has suspended his co-operation with the election authorities, a position the UN has described as “regrettable” and says he will not recognize any result they release.
More demonstrators from Abdullah Abdullah’s camp have been out on the streets of Kabul on Sunday.
Many say they are there to “protect their vote” from fraud.
Both sides have lodged complaints about the conduct of these elections and for Abdullah Abdullah, who felt he was robbed of the presidency back in 2009, there is a sense that history is repeating itself.
Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded an immediate halt to vote-counting over allegations of widespread fraud.
Ballot boxes had been stuffed and the whole system was working to benefit his rival Ashraf Ghani, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said.
He said he had lost trust in election officials, adding: “We have asked our monitors to leave their offices.”
A run-off vote to choose who replaces Hamid Karzai was held on Saturday. Final results are due in July.
Abdullah Abdullah won most votes in the first round in April, but did not secure an outright majority.
There was no immediate comment from Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist.
Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded an immediate halt to vote-counting over allegations of widespread fraud
Hamid Karzai, who has served two terms as Afghanistan’s first and only president since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, is obliged by law to stand down after the latest election, which would be the country’s first peaceful transfer of power.
He is expected to hand over to his successor in August.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said that a number of his observers had been beaten up, detained and only released on Tuesday.
He accused President Hamid Karzai of not being neutral and said important concerns he had raised over the election had been ignored.
Abdullah Abdullah also complained that there had been no clarification over what he had called inflated turnout figures – and no explanation for the sacking of several thousand election workers after the first round.
He added that he had also demanded that a senior member of the Independent Election Commission should be suspended, but this had not happened.
“The counting process should stop immediately and if that continues, it will have no legitimacy,” Dr. Abdullah Abdullah told reporters.
Ballot boxes have yet to reach Kabul for votes to be counted but the former foreign minister said preliminary evidence gathered by his team showed widespread fraud.
According to initial reports received by his staff, Ashraf Ghani is leading by nearly a million votes after Saturday’s run-off, Reuters news agency reported.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election which was also marred by claims of mass fraud.
UN and US officials have been urging both contenders in this year’s race to give officials time to count votes and look into possible malpractice.
Voters in Afghanistan are deciding who will succeed President Hamid Karzai after run-off polls.
The choice was between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
The head of the election commission said turnout was good and most polling stations had opened but admitted some places had run out of ballot papers.
The Taliban threatened to target voting, and there are concerns that fraud could produce a disputed result.
Leading candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have campaigned relentlessly ahead of Afghanistan presidential election’s second round
It should be the first time that power in Afghanistan has been democratically transferred.
As most foreign soldiers prepare to withdraw by the end of this year, whoever becomes the new leader faces multiple challenges.
Taliban insurgents remain active, the economy is weak, corruption is endemic and the rule of law goes largely unenforced.
About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote. Polls closed at 16:00 local time but officials said those in line at that time could still vote.
The election commission said 6,204 polling centres had opened, but about 160 remained closed because of security threats.
Abdullah Abdullah won 45% of the first-round vote, with Ashraf Ghani securing 31.6% – neither achieved the 50% needed to avoid a second round.
Both sides have faced multiple claims of fraud.
Correspondents say that a seamless transfer of power would be a significant achievement for Afghanistan and a vindication of international efforts to establish a functioning democracy after the abuses of the Taliban era.
But Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote terrain, coupled with the dilapidated condition of many of its roads, mean that holding a country-wide election is a major challenge. Thousands of donkeys will be deployed to carry ballot boxes to some of the more inaccessible villages.
The preliminary result is expected on July 2 and the final result on July 22.