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Afghan Presidential Candidates Agree to Share Power

Abdullah Abdullah, second left, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, second right, sign a power-sharing deal at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Abdullah Abdullah, second left, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, second right, sign a power-sharing deal at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

This week Afghanistan ended months of dispute over the country's presidential election. The United States helped negotiate a power-sharing agreement between the top two presidential candidates. Under the agreement, the Afghan politician and economist Ashraf Ghani will become president. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, will hold a new position called “chief executive.”

Critics question whether this agreement is strong enough to solve the many problems facing Afghanistan. The two men will take office just as international troops are preparing to leave the country.

Afghanistan's elections started in April. In June, voters got to choose between the two men who received the most votes in the April elections. For months, the results were not clear as the United Nations investigated reports of cheating.

The political battle ended earlier this week when Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah agreed on a power-sharing deal. The deal requires election officials to keep the results of the June runoff vote secret.

For now, the agreement has ended the election dispute. But critics say it has hurt Afghanistan’s young democracy.

The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan deployed thousands of observers across the country to make sure the voting was fair. Naeem Ayubzada is the head of the group.

"The political agreement solved the current situations but undermined the credibility and all the achievements regarding the technical process. It hurt the process; it hurt the transparency and it hurt the principles for the elections."

On Monday, President-elect Ghani promised Afghans that he would form a strong and united government with Mr. Abdullah. Mr. Ghani said the new government will take responsibility for all its decisions. He rejected criticism of being the president of a "two-headed government."

Naeem Ayubzada questions the president’s claims and fears the two men may start arguing again.

"We do have concerns about the political crisis of Afghanistan because there are two bosses and the concern is that these two big players will be busy with their own things and will not focus on the people and will not focus on other developments we need to have for the future five years.”

Under the deal, the two men will decide together who will hold important positions in finance and security. The chief executive will report to the president, but both men are responsible for making sure policies are carried out.

Kate Clark is with the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She has studied Afghan politics for many years. She worries that the deal will not bring good governance and lasting peace to the country.

"There is relief that it’s over for now but that is very, very short term relief. There is not a great—there is not a great sense of optimism that this will work out very well. It’s felt like people in charge, the politicians are actually more concerned about getting their own seats, getting their own positions than they have been about the future of the country, that’s the impression that has been given."

Kate Clark says young Afghan voters are tired after years of conflict. Those voters took a strong interest in the presidential elections. But she says the secretive power-sharing deal weakens the election process.

"Millions of people turned out to vote, you then have a deal done behind closed doors that the people have not been informed about. And I think that also shows what has been lost this summer, the sense of active participation. It’s fairly new in Afghanistan, it doesn’t have a great history of democracy but you did get a sense that people were coming out to vote and in some cases risking their lives and to come out and vote, and now they are turned back into passive people who don't—don’t have a say and are not even consulted in what—what’s going on."

She also says the large number of voters surprised many critics and angered the Taliban. Gaining popular support is important for defeating rebel groups. But, she says, the power-sharing agreement makes the Taliban less likely to negotiate an end to the war.

"And what we have got now, all that goodwill, that freshness, that motivation, I would say has been lost. I would say at the moment the main problem with getting the Taliban to stop fighting is that whereas earlier on in the year the Afghan state looked like it was going to emerge strong, united with a popular democratic mandate . . .as an opponent that was to be feared. What’s instead happened is that the state is a lot weaker, a lot more contested. And if you’re the Taliban and you are making a political calculation as to what will suit you best, earlier in the year you might have been thinking about talks, now I am sure you’ll be thinking about fighting."

Ashraf Ghani will officially become president next Monday. He will replace President Hamid Karzai, who held the position for 13 years.

The new government will face serious budget and security issues. The government will also have to decide if it will sign a security agreement with the United States. Mr. Kazai has refused to sign the proposed deal. Under the measure, U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan past the end of 2014.

I’m Adam Brock.


Words in this Story

disputen. disagreement or argument

executive n. a person who manages or directs other people in a company or organization

deploy v. to organize and send out (people or things) to be used for a particular purpose

mandaten. the power to act that voters give to their elected leaders

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