The otherwise crowded streets of Kabul were empty on March 9, as the people of Afghanistan watched with bated breath a political crisis unfolding in the country. Ashraf Ghani, who was declared winner of the September presidential election, was preparing for the inauguration of his second term. His main rival Abdullah Abdullah, who rejected the results alleging election frauds, was doing the same for himself.
After 24-hour-long talks between the two sides failed to reach an understanding, both leaders went ahead holding separate swearing-in ceremonies, to the dismay of many Afghans who have seen a sharp rise in violence in the country’s conflict in recent years. Five months after conducting the presidential elections that saw a record law turnout amid threats of violence, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan announced results last month, saying Mr. Ghani won 50.64% of the vote, or 9,23,592 ballots, while Mr. Abdullah received 39.52%, or 7,20,841 votes. Mr. Abdullah rejected the results and declared himself the real winner.
Many Afghans fear that this political deadlock could affect the already delayed intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban and add to the growing political instability.
On February 29, the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban that will provide for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The deal also seeks intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “This two-government ceremony is very worrying,” shared a 45-year-old property dealer in Kabul, who identified himself as Homayun. “I am sitting here and watching it closely and I am scared for the future of our country,” he said from his office in west Kabul that has not seen much business in recent years. “The economy is in its worst shape, violence is increasing.”
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