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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KABUL: The US envoy to Afghanistan, John Bass, has called for an inclusive, cross-factional government in Kabul, saying the low voter turnout in the country’s recent poll failed to deliver a “commanding mandate.”
Bass, who is nearing the end of his two-year mission in Kabul, said that with “fewer than a million votes in a country of over 30 million people,” the winner of the elections will lack majority support.
Voter turnout in the election in late September was the lowest since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001.
Around 1.9 million people out of more than 9.6 million registered voters took part in the elections, according to Afghanistan’s election commission.
The commission released preliminary results of the election two weeks ago showing incumbent President Ashraf Ghani secured 50.6 percent of the vote and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah 39.5 percent, with the remaining votes split among 10 other candidates.
Abdullah has demanded the election commission discard 300,000 “bogus” votes cast in favor of the president. After weeks of dispute, the electoral body has begun investigating the allegations.
Ghani’s camp rejected the claims, and also filed complaints of mismanagement and fraud.
Many in Afghanistan fear the election could require a second round of voting if the political bickering continues.
In an interview broadcast on Wednesday, Bass said the poor voter turnout “is not a signal that a large majority of the people support the winner.”
“Whoever wins in the first round needs to approach it with a bit of humility. They need to reach out to other political factions. They need to be governing inclusively. They need to be listening to the desires, fears and objectives of a wider cross section of society, and to govern in a way that people feel they are being heard,” Bass said.
Ghani and Abdullah’s teams could not be reached for response.
• Voter turnout in the election in late September was the lowest since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001.
• Around 1.9 million people out of more than 9.6 million registered voters took part in the elections.
The two have shared power in a national unity government as part of a deal brokered by Washington after the 2014 elections marred by allegations of heavy rigging.
Abdul Hafeez Mansoor, a pro-Abdullah politician, described the US envoy’s comments as “interference,” saying it was part of Washington’s efforts to create a “weak and controllable government in Afghanistan.”
“How does the US ambassador know there won’t be a second round and far more people will participate in it? America wants a less legitimate, divided and subdued government here,” he told Arab News.
Retired Afghan army Gen. Attiqullah Amarkhail said that the US wanted a “weak government in Afghanistan in order to keep its military presence.”
“The US ambassador is implementing his government’s policies here. America wants a divided country,” he said.
Bass’s comments follow the US resumption of direct talks with the Taliban in a bid to end the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.
The envoy claimed the US was not insisting on a nationwide cease-fire with the Taliban.
“It depends on the Taliban. I mean, we are not insisting at this point that there has to be a nationwide cease-fire before anything can happen,” Bass said.
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