Feb 18, 2020 - World

Ghani declared victor in Afghanistan's disputed presidential election

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Tuesday's long-awaited announcement that Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani won re-election last September appears likely to deepen, rather than resolve, a tense dispute over the country's presidential election.

Why it matters: The U.S. has reached a truce with the Taliban that, if it holds, will lead to negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. That development comes amid a bitter dispute over who speaks for Afghanistan.

Driving the news: After months of delay, official results show Ghani receiving 50.6% of the vote, a whisker above the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff and 10 points ahead of challenger Abdullah Abdullah.

  • But Abdullah has also claimed victory and accused the electoral commission of "treason." He has a significant power base, and he's threatened to form a parallel government.
  • The U.S. had to intervene in 2014 when Ghani and Abdullah last faced off, brokering a delicate power-sharing deal.

What to watch: "Ghani's victory by such a small margin based on very low turnout is problematic," said Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center think tank.

  • "A leader with many rivals will be taking over with a small mandate, and that could undermine his legitimacy at a moment when he could soon be expected to put together a negotiating team and lead peace talks with the Taliban."
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