Afghanistan: Rival ‘presidents’ plan rival inaugurations

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Two political rivals in Afghanistan – who both claim they won the presidential election – plan to hold inauguration ceremonies on Monday.

Abdullah Abdullah said he would postpone his ceremony – but only if incumbent Ashraf Ghani followed suit.

But Mr Ghani’s team said their inauguration would go ahead this afternoon, suggesting both ceremonies will still take place.

Both politicians are old rivals who held roles in the previous government.

Mr Ghani has been president since 2014. Afghanistan’s election commission said he won the election, but Mr Abdullah has disputed this, claiming election fraud.

Mr Abdullah’s team said they would be prepared to cancel their ceremony, following the intervention of US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

But Mr Ghani’s team later told Reuters news agency: “The guest arrival has just started and we will have our ceremony in a few hours.”

That was confirmed in a later tweet from his spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi.

Both men issued invitations to their parallel ceremonies last week.

Afghanistan held elections in September last year but the Electoral Commission only announced Mr Ghani as the winner in February.

Mr Abdullah accused the government of fraud and vowed to form his own parallel government.

“It’s impossible to have two presidents in one country,” one Afghan man told news agency AFP. “Instead of [both] holding oath-taking ceremonies they should talk to each other to find a solution.”

The political showdown comes days after Mr Abdullah escaped unharmed from an attack that saw at least 32 people killed.

The Islamic State targeted a ceremony attended by top Afghan politicians in Kabul, which was meant to commemorate the death of an Afghan Shia leader.

It was the first major attack in the capital since the US and Taliban signed a deal in late February.

Under the terms of the agreement, the US and its Nato allies will withdraw their troops within 14 months. In return, the Taliban will hold talks with the Afghan government.

But experts now say the political rivalry will “gravely affect the government’s position in the upcoming intra-Afghan talks”.


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