Afghan Vote Frontrunner's Spokesman: Coalition Govt 'Unacceptable'

Monday, 28 Jul 2014 02:42 PM

By John Gizzi

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At a time when U.S. forces are disengaging from Afghanstan and the embattled country is in the throes of a disputed presidential election, the spokesman for the candidate now leading in the vote recount told Newsmax that a coalition government with the runner-up is "unacceptable."

"A coalition government [with second-place finisher Dr. Abdullah Abdullah] is unacceptable because it would keep the candidate who did win from governing and implementing his agenda of reform," said Hamdullah Mohib, spokesman for Ashraf Ghani, who led Abdullah in the initial count.

Mohib told Newsmax that any power-sharing arrangement with Abdullah would undermine the runoff election to choose a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai and enhance the hand of "the people who don't believe in the process" — a clear reference to the Taliban terrorists who tried to disrupt the election.

But Mohib emphasized that if Ghani is triumphant in the eventual count, he is very open to the concept of what he and his supporters call "an inclusive government" — that is, including supporters of Abdullah in a government led by Ghani.

"This is different from 'power-sharing' or a 'coalition government,'" he explained. "The best comparison would be to President Obama naming Mr. [Chuck] Hagel, a former Republican senator, to be his secretary of defense."

Mohib, the spokesman for Ghani (who earned a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Columbia University), spoke to Newsmax on July 25, one day before reports that hundreds of Taliban militants had attacked police checkpoints across the south of Afghanstan. As of Monday, there were reports of 15 deaths, including six police officers and the district police chief in the province of Kandahar.

With more than 8 million Afghan voters going to the polls in the June 14 runoff election, former World Bank economist and Finance Minister Ghani held a comfortable lead over Abdullah, a past foreign minister. Supporters of Abdullah, who placed second in the 2009 election won by Karzai, promptly charged fraud on the part of Ghani.

As a result of the charges by Abdullah's campaign team and subsequent countercharges of voter fraud on Abdullah's part by Ghani, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated a deal under which there would be an audit of every one of the ballots cast in the runoff.

International supervision of the audit is being provided by the United Nations. Western embassy officials, Afghan, and foreign officials are taking part in observing the audit of ballots.

Because of Abdullah's refusal to concede, there have been growing suggestions in the international community, along with resulting press speculation, about a "coalition government" in which the two candidates and their supporters share authority. But as Mohib pointed out, such "power-sharing" arrangements have an unhappy history in developing democracies.

In the Congo in 1965, there was increasing competition between President Joseph Kasavubu and Prime Minister Moise Tshombe, both longtime political rivals. Finally, amid fears that the conflict could lead to a more radical African group seizing power, Congolese Army Chief of Staff Joseph Mobutu seized power in a bloodless coup and ruled as a strongman for the next 32 years.

During the post-World War II years, the King of Laos named "the three princes" — Souvanna Phouma (neutralist), Souphanovong (leftist), and Boun Oum (rightist) — to form a coalition government. Eventually, Boun Oum, cousin to the other two princes, overthrew them and Laos was plunged into a long civil war.

More recently, in 2009, Zimbabwe's strongman President Robert Mugabe agreed to name his rival and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. But months later, Tsvangirai charged that Mugabe had repeatedly violated their agreement to share authority and harassed his party's members of parliament. In the next election, Mugabe's Zanu-PF Party won resoundingly and Tsvangirai was out of government.

Ghani's spokesman Mohib explained that without the fraud charges, "the official count of the election would have been completed on Aug. 2. But with the audit going on, he said the vote count will now probably be finalized "in three weeks."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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