A tug of war; Ghani and Abdullah striving to become presidents

The incumbent president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the incumbent chief executive Abdullah Abdullah are preparing for separate oath-taking ceremonies which were set to take place early Monday morning, February 09, but was delayed as a result of disputes over final results of the controversial 2019 presidential elections.

On February 19, 2020, the country’s election commission declared Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the elections, but Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s main political rival, who claims that votes have been rigged in favor of Ghani, contested the announcement. Mr. Abdullah stressed that he would form his own ‘inclusive’ parallel government.

Over last weeks, the two rivals, in a series of maneuver for power, wrestled tough to insist upon their positions, with each of them claiming victory. On February 22, Mr. Ghani assigned a committee to take preparation for ceremony of his oath whereas Mr. Abdullah appointed parallel governors in some northern provinces of the country.       

With tensions growing more over future presidency of the country, US especial envoy Zalmay Khalilzad stepped in to find a political ‘solution’ to end election crisis between Ghani and Abdullah. Sources close to Abdullah say that efforts by US officials including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN envoy are underway to find a solution.          

One country and two presidents

The political arena of Afghanistan is marked by power struggle. Ashraf Ghani, who has picked his vices from the ethnic Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek, has been struggling to put the country on a track which he thinks best serves the interest of the nation whereas his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who is backed by powerful Uzbek and Hazara politicians, accuses him of making attempt to stage a coup against what he describes as ‘votes of people.’

The controversial 2014 presidential elections was undermined by similar charges, with Mr. Abdullah, who contested for the office of presidency against Ashraf Ghani, claimed victory while the country’s election authorities declared Mr. Ghani as winner of the elections.

The 2014 Afghan election crisis, however, ended peacefully after John Kerrey, then the US Secretary of State, brokered a political settlement which was coined as national unity government, with Ghani taking the charge of office of the president and Abdullah acting as chief executive of the national unity government. Under the national unity government, the two leaders appointed their own men as ministers, governors, police chiefs and district governors.

The way the 2014 Afghan elections turned up was an instance of power struggle, political rifts and contradictions.

Afghanistan is a country where various ethnic groups want a genuine representation in the government. The 2019 Afghan elections, though flawed it was, is the only mechanism of power sharing in a country that is oscillating between war and peace.   

The game of thrones played by Afghan leaders in Kabul would put the Taliban insurgents in position of strength in peace talks which is expected to take place in coming weeks.           

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