Vote dispute: Afghan president-elect delays inauguration for talks with rival

Afghan President-elect Ashraf Ghani has agreed to delay his inauguration ceremony to allow more time for talks with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has competing claims to the country’s leadership, following a disputed presidential race.

Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s spokesman, said on Twitter that the ceremony would take place in the afternoon instead of morning as was planned.

The PressTV reports that, the president-elect had earlier turned down Abdullah’s call for him to postpone the event.

Abdullah, who serves as the chief executive officer of the outgoing administration, has rejected a decision by Afghanistan’s Election Commission last month to announce Ghani as the winner of the September 2019 presidential election, proclaiming himself to be the president-elect.

He initially planned to hold his own swearing-in ceremony on Monday, but later postponed the event.

Both men issued invitations last week for their rival inauguration ceremonies.

Meanwhile, an official who declined to be named said Ghani, Abdullah and US special Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad were holding meetings on Monday morning as they worked towards a deal to prevent two parallel inauguration ceremonies.

Abdullah’s office confirmed that Khalilzad on Monday had held three meetings with the chief executive to “find a solution” for the matter, but had not succeeded.

However, Abdullah’s deputy spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said hopes still remained as efforts were underway by Afghan and foreign politicians to end the dispute.

“We have presented our plan to Mr. Khalilzad to give it to the other side (Ghani’s office). Their plan has been received by us through Mr. Khalilzad. So far, we have not reached a tangible result,” he said.

Afghan politicians remain concerned about the future of an attempt to hold two inauguration ceremonies in a single day, believing it will push the country into a new political crisis.

The country’s previous presidential election was also marred by a similar dispute involving Ghani and Abdullah, which was resolved by a US-brokered power-sharing agreement.

The new row comes just days after the US and the Afghan Taliban militant group reached a tentative deal on the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country following months-long talks, which excluded the Kabul government.

The Afghan government should now be preparing for talks with the militant group following the US-Taliban deal.