Afghan president vote secret

Associated Press

Kabul, Afghanistan – — Ending months of vote-related tension, Afghanistan’s election commission named a new president Sunday only hours after the leading candidates signed a power-sharing deal that names one of them as the country’s new chief executive.

The commission named Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as the winner and next president and noted that his one-time rival, Abdullah Abdullah, will fill the newly created position of chief executive, a post akin to prime minister. But it pointedly did not release final vote totals amid concerns that doing so could inflame tensions.

The deal brings to a close an election season that began in April, when millions of Afghans first went to the polls despite threats from Taliban militants, and ended when the two leading candidates signed a national unity government agreement and embraced in a hug. In between, the Abdullah camp alleged that its cause was cheated by massive vote fraud.

A nation long tired of election bluffs seemed to accept the electoral deal with a shrug. There were no mass celebrations in Kabul, and Afghan journalists reacted angrily when the election commission declined to release final results, abruptly ending a brief news conference without taking questions.

The United States applauded the deal and the White House said that “respect for the democratic process” is the only viable path forward for Afghanistan. But to many here, the next Afghan government appeared to be more a product of negotiation than vote tallies, especially given the fact a final count wasn’t even released.

“I don’t think anyone will vote again,” said Masie Hajizada, a 26-year-old businessman. “They will have to do a lot of campaigning to get us to vote.”

The deal is a victory for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who first got the candidates to agree in principle to share power during a visit to Afghanistan in July. Kerry returned to Kabul in August and has spent hours with the candidates, including in repeated phone calls, in an effort to seal the deal.

Kerry lauded the two leaders, saying the agreement helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis.