Thousands homeless after floods kill more than 100 across Afghanistan
Police chief in Jawzjan province appeals for assistance, saying 1,500 people have been carried to safe areas by helicopter
More than 100 people have been killed and thousands left homeless by flash floods in north and west Afghanistan, officials said on Friday, prompting desperate pleas for help from the impoverished provincial authorities.
Thousands of homes have been engulfed by flood waters in four provinces after three days of heavy rain in what is traditionally a wet period at the start of spring.
In the northern province of Jawzjan, the police chief, Faqer Mohammad Jawzjani, said 55 bodies had been recovered, and that the number of dead would increase over the coming days.
"Providing aid or help from the ground is impossible," he told Reuters. "We have carried 1,500 people to safe areas of neighbouring districts by helicopter. We need emergency assistance from the central government and aid agencies."
The governor of neighbouring Faryab province said 33 people had died there and 80 others were missing. "Ten thousand families have been affected and more then 2,000 houses have been destroyed," Mohammadullah Batazhn said.
Officials said 13 people were killed in the provinces of Badghis and Sar-e Pol.
After none of the candidates received the necessary 50 percent of vote to win outright, leading contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani will face off again in late May
Afghanistan’s former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah won the most votes in the country’s election of a new president, but not enough to avoid a run-off election with second place rival Ashraf Ghani.
None of the candidates in the April 5 election received the necessary 50% of the votes to win outright, according to preliminary results. The winner will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally forbidden from running for a third term.
Abdullah, who ran against Karzai in the previous presidential election in 2009, won the most votes with 44.9 percent, the BBC reports. Former finance minister and World Bank official Ghani received 31.5 percent. The two could plausibly form a coalition government together, but are expected to compete in a run-off.
Final results will be confirmed on May 14 to allow time to process complaints. Reports of fraud have been increasing amid accusations from all sides that votes were purposefully miscounted and ballot boxes were stuffed. A run-off vote is expected to take place on May 28.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan released preliminary results in its crucial presidential election on Saturday, but the results are only one step in a potentially long road to determine who will succeed President Hamid Karzai. Neither of the two leading vote-getters, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, won a majority, meaning the country is heading for a runoff.
WHEN WILL WE KNOW WHO IS AFGHANISTAN'S NEXT PRESIDENT?
Probably not for weeks. Final results from this round of voting are due May 14. Since no candidate garnered a majority in the first round, a runoff will be required between Abdullah and Ahmadzai. The election commission chairman set a tentative date of June 7. After that, the entire process of counting, handling complaints and making revisions begins again, meaning that it could be late July before a final winner is declared.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
The U.S.-led military coalition is counting on Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power as part of its plan to withdraw most troops by the end of the year, nearly 13 years after toppling the Taliban's radical Islamic regime for sheltering al-Qaida's Osama bin Laden. The new president will face the daunting task of overseeing the foreign forces' withdrawal and also resetting relations with Washington, which have taken a battering from Karzai's increasing anti-American rhetoric. He will also be under pressure to quickly finalize a security agreement with the U.S. that Karzai has refused to sign. Both Abdullah and Ahmadzai have vowed to sign the security pact to allow a small U.S. training force to help the Afghan military and police fight the Taliban.
WHY IS THE ELECTION TAKING SO LONG?
The election schedule was intentionally given time to accommodate for Afghanistan's far-flung and daunting geography. Many ballot boxes had to be transported by donkey. Plus, time was added for fraud investigations.
HAS VOTER FRAUD BEEN A PROBLEM?
Almost certainly, but it's still hard to tell just how much and who it benefits. Most observers believe the level of fraud is lower than the 2009 elections, when ballot-box stuffing caused more than 1 million ballots to be thrown out. The election commission invalidated some 240,000 votes in this election and are examining ballot boxes that could represent 200,000 more, but those likely would not affect the outcome of this round.
CAN RISKS IN THE RUNOFF BE AVOIDED?
The Taliban launched hundreds of attacks before the election, though the voting itself was largely peaceful. A second round would risk yet more attacks, another challenge for police and army in securing polling stations. There are also fears that a runoff might be bitterly contested and divisive. Some even worry it could stoke ethnic tension. However, both Abdullah and Ahmadzai pledge they'll keep their campaign rhetoric respectful to avoid divisions in a runoff.
WHO WOULD WIN A SECOND ROUND OF VOTING?
It depends on whether voters follow ethnic lines and whether first-round candidates can transfer their supporters to a new ally. All eight candidates are from the Pashtun ethnicity, Afghanistan's largest, but Abdullah is seen by some as not a true Pashtun, since his mother was ethnic Tajik. One theory is that supporters of the six other candidates will coalesce behind the remaining candidate they see as Pashtun. That would give Ahmadzai the advantage, as would support from ethnic Uzbeks loyal to one of running mates, powerful warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. Still, Abdullah clearly has had some Pashtun support in the first round, and his experienced campaign may draw enough in a runoff to add to his strong advantage in Kabul and among other ethnicities to put him over 50 percent. Zalmai Rassoul, in third place with 11.5 percent of the vote, also could sway voters though it is unclear if he would be able to deliver the votes of his largely Pashtun supporters.
Ashraf Ghani gave up a comfortable life in Baltimore to rebuild war-torn homeland
These days, his Western business suits and ties have given way to Afghan turbans and tunics. Instead of anthropology students and fellow faculty members at the Johns Hopkins University, tribal elders and international aid officials are more likely to seek his ear.
Also left behind is the inviting stucco home overlooking a stream in Roland Park for one in Kabul with walls fortified against explosions and protected by armed guards — with good reason.
"That hospital is 300 meters from my house," Ashraf Ghani said by phone this week on a day when three American doctors were killed in an attack at a Cure International Hospital. "My late mother used to be there. It is a remarkable group of people there. It's just terrible."
The man who would be the next president of Afghanistan leads a vastly different life than he did as an anthropology professor in Baltimore, which he left in 1991 first for the World Bank and then for the immense challenges of rebuilding and serving as finance minister of his war-battered homeland.
Ghani, 64, has been running second among 11 candidates in the voting — although officials are investigating fraud complaints and contested ballots before certifying the race — and is expected to head into a runoff election next month.
While Ghani looks back fondly at his time here — the heady intellectual climate on campus, the warm neighborhood where he and his wife raised two children — he gave it up without hesitation.
"My country needed me," he says simply. "You don't feel it's a sacrifice, but that it's a calling."
The country's needs loom large, with U.S.-led troops scheduled to pull out this year and Afghanistan facing its first transfer of presidential power since Hamid Karzai took office as the country's first democratically elected head of state in 2004.
A runoff is required if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, and Ghani said he expects to emerge victorious over the current front-runner, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. In the meantime, there is much intrigue over possible coalitions forming in advance of the runoff, although Ghani said he wants no part of that.
"I am not a deal-maker," Ghani said. "When millions of people vote for you, it is an incredible, sacred trust."
Win or lose, it has already been a remarkable journey — for both Ghani and Afghanistan, where the April 5 election drew long, enthusiastic lines of voters despite Taliban insurgent threats to disrupt the polling.
"It was an act of courage," said Shabana Basij-Rasikh, 24, an Afghan educator who was in Baltimore recently to receive an award from the student-run Foreign Affairs Symposium at Hopkins. "That act of courage is indicative of people's desire for change."
For many, those hopes lie in the candidacy of Ghani, who since returning to Afghanistan in 2002 has been key to its reconstruction: He replaced its unworkable currency, for example, and implemented a community-directed redevelopment program that funneled billions of dollars in foreign aid into the building of schools, roads, power plants and other basic infrastructure.
Exiled first by the communist revolution and Soviet invasion in the late 1970s, then by the Taliban takeover in the 1990s, Ghani was hired at Hopkins as a freshly minted Ph.D. in 1983.
"He's really brilliant," said Niloofar Haeri, who chairs the Hopkins anthropology department. "He's one of the very few people I can use that adjective for without reservation.
"In some ways, he's quite intimidating for some people because he's so no-nonsense. Some people have found him a bit impatient. But I always learned from him."
The sting of his impatience was usually felt by students who failed to live up to his high standards, said Sidney Mintz, who with two former Yale professors started the Hopkins anthropology department in the mid-70s. Mintz said he always felt Ghani preferred the back-and-forth with other professors.
"He liked very much the discourse with his colleagues, listening to people present their papers," Mintz said. "I remember when he'd read something of mine he would always have insights."
The city still holds a special place for Ghani.
"Our children were 2 and 5 years old when we came to Baltimore," he said of his son, Tarek, and daughter, Mariam. "That's where they grew up."
Abdullah remains a favorite in urban areas and in the Persian-speaking north of the country. But should he win the runoff election, he has the potential to divide the country, says DW's Florian Weigand.
Seldom in the recent history of Afghanistan has a non-Pashtun made it to the top state ranks. Luck, it seems, has not been with them; the conservative King Habibullah, for example, who was lampooned as the "son of a water carrier," was only in power for less than a year at the end of the 1920s before he was executed. And Burhanuddin Rabbani was Afghan president when the country became engulfed by a civil war after the retreat of Soviet forces. No wonder, then, that so many Afghans think only Pashtuns can reliably run the country.
Afghanistan is made up of a mosaic of different ethnicities. Among them, Pashtuns make up the majority in government, and are dominant in the south - while in the north of the country, the majority is made up of Persian-speaking Tajiks. Wouldn't it be nice if Abdullah Abdullah - a person who is open to the West, as well as being a member of the country's second-largest ethnic group - could be elected president, especially seeing how he grew up in a mixed Pashtun-Tajik household? He would be a democratically elected representative of integration - not because of his family tree, but because of his policies and personality. Afghanistan has a long and deep-rooted history of storytelling. But often, reality goes by different rules.
The specter of unavoidable ethnic identity is as alive now as ever before. Despite his mixed family background, Abdullah - who won 44.9 percent of the total vote - is seen as a Tajik from the north by most. His entire political biography has been characterized by this. He is the most important still-living politician of the so-called Northern Alliance, which fought against the Taliban. According to the independent election commission, Abdullah received more than 80 percent of votes in some parts of the country's north.
In certain purely Pashtun areas in the south and east, however, he received barely more than 3 percent. The hope that Afghans would cast their votes based on a candidate's policies only came to fruition in the larger cities. Abdullah so far has not been able to convince most rural Pashtuns.
The sum of all votes that went to ethnic other Pashtun candidates in the first round of polls was more than the number of votes that went to Abdullah. Ashraf Ghani, who won 31.5 percent of the total vote, will seek to gain all Pashtun votes for himself in the runoff election. And Abdullah is aware of this; reports have started emerging that he has initiated talks for an alliance with the number-three candidate, the Pashtun Salmai Rassul, who received 11.5 percent of the vote.
Win over all
Should Abdullah come out on top in the second round of voting, he would be well-advised to make Pashtuns feel at home. Abdullah must fight against the impression many Afghans have that he only represents the north of the country and the large cities. In urban areas such as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, Pashtuns and Tajiks have lived next door to each other, married each other and had a unique Afghan identity for generations.
Rich in natural gas and with a relatively stable security situation, the north is the nation's potential economic motor. But the south must not be allowed to become the country's Taliban-tainted reject.
That would have fatal consequences for the country's foreign policy, and thus for the stability of the entire region. In neighboring Pakistan, Abdullah does not enjoy the best reputation, and he looks to the politics of Islamabad with a critical eye as well. Pakistan could become tempted to use resentments against Abdullah to its advantage - for influence in Afghanistan.
It would be fatal if the West were to turn a blind eye to this. Only a government in Kabul that is supported by the majority of Afghans in the north as well as in the south, and whose standing is recognized in the region, would be able to create stability that would allow the West to end its ISAF deployment at the end of the year with a lighter heart.
Karzai Opponent Clear Front-Runner in Afghan Presidential Elections
KABUL, Afghanistan — Abdullah Abdullah, a longtime opponent of President Hamid Karzai’s and an ardent supporter of the United States, emerged on Saturday as the clear front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election and could become the first non-Pashtun to lead the country in more than three centuries.
In preliminary results released on Saturday, Mr. Abdullah won 45 percent of the vote, but not enough to avoid a runoff with the leading Pashtun candidate, Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist and Karzai adviser, who won 32 percent. Afghan government officials, however, said Mr. Abdullah was on the verge of forging alliances with at least two of the Pashtun runners-up to gain their support and possibly the presidency in the next round.
Either of the top two candidates would represent a significant break with the years of deteriorating relations with the United States under Mr. Karzai, and would be a shift toward greater cooperation. Each candidate has said he would sign a security agreement with the United States that allows American forces to remain in the country past 2014 — an accord Mr. Karzai negotiated but then refused to sign.
The apparent advantage for Mr. Abdullah, with his long record of advocating closer relations with the United States and a more militant stance against the Taliban, was likely to be encouraging news for the United States and its NATO allies, although they have been careful to refrain from expressing support for any candidate in the race.
The election, the third for president since the NATO-led invasion of 2001, also appears to have been the country’s most democratic yet. The turnout was nearly double that of the last election, the deeply tainted race that Mr. Abdullah lost to Mr. Karzai in 2009, and early indications suggested that it was far cleaner than the last one, although final rulings on fraud complaints may not come for several weeks.
Such numbers, along with the expected Pashtun support, could give Mr. Abdullah a powerful mandate. In a recent interview, Mr. Abdullah said he would set a different tone in relations with the United States, ending the often-acrimonious criticism from Mr. Karzai over prisoner releases, civilian casualties and night raids.
“This rhetoric has not helped Afghanistan,” he said.
The two Pashtun candidates expected to throw their support to Mr. Abdullah are Zalmay Rassoul, believed to have been Mr. Karzai’s favorite, and Gul Agha Sherzai, a former warlord favored by the C.I.A. and popular in the Taliban’s southern heartland, Kandahar, according to two senior Afghan government officials.
Afghanistan election: lack of majority could mean run-off
Ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah leads with nearly 45% but poll officials suggest there may be second round of voting
The former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has received the most votes in the Afghan elections, although he has failed to win a majority.
The chairman of the independent election commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, said on Saturday that Abdullah had 44.9% of the vote and ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai came in second with 31.5%. The preliminary results are due to be finalised on 14 May after investigations into fraud complaints.
"This is a preliminary outcome and will now go to the independent election complaints commission and they will work on this. As soon as they share their findings with us we will also announce it," Nouristani said
He added: "I think we are prepared and if it goes to second round, yes we think it is doable, and we have a tentative schedule of 7 June to start the second round."
Electoral law requires a run-off between the top two candidates if no one candidate gets a majority. A run-off should be held within 15 days of final results. The candidates are vying to replace President Hamid Karzai, the only leader Afghans have known since the US-led invasion to remove the Taliban's hardline Islamic regime.
The elections were held on 4 April and there were 27 candidates for president. Twelve million Afghans had the right to vote and 8 million refugees and expatriates. Around 5.8m votes were cast.