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U.N. Official Calls For Calm In Afghanistan After Claims Of Election Fraud


In Afghanistan today, supporters of presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, held what they called a national day of protest. They came out to echo Abdullah's charges that last Saturday's presidential run-off vote was rigged against him. Abdullah has since declared that Afghanistan's two electoral commissions are illegitimate and that he will not respect the results that are due early next month. NPR's Sean Carberry reports on the growing political crisis.


SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: While it might have been called a national day of protest, no more than several hundred Abdullah supporters took to Kabul's streets. Abdullah Khohodat is one of the organizers of the demonstration.

ABDULLAH KHOHODAT: We are against the fraud and we're not going to accept it. And we are looking for justice.

CARBERRY: He says Pres. Hamid Karzai and the electoral commissions are behind massive fraud in favor of candidate Ashraf Ghani. Those are Abdullah's claims, though, he has yet to publicly provide any evidence of his allegations. Khohodat says this is just the beginning of what will be larger demonstrations.

KHOHODAT: This will be continue maybe forever. And we are not responsible for the consequences.

CARBERRY: He says his movement intends to remain peaceful, and if anything goes wrong, Afghan security forces are to blame. However, there's been enough violent language from some demonstrators and on social media that United Nations official Nicholas Haysom has called for calm.


NICHOLAS HAYSOM: Should any violence emanate from the demonstrations, it could make the task of trust building more difficult, it could lead to the spiral of instability.

CARBERRY: While Abdulla has washed his hands of the electoral commissions, he has proposed having the U.N. take over the process of cleaning up fraud, which by all accounts was widespread.


PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: President Karzai, who remained silent for nearly a week, late Friday endorsed Abdullah's U.N. proposal. Many read it as a sign of how fragile the situation is when a president who's long complained of foreign meddling in Afghanistan's elections is turning to the UN. But Haysom says the U.N. can't do the work of the Afghan elections commissions. He says it would undermine the legitimacy of the outcome.


HAYSOM: Well, we think the most important assistance we can give now is to provide a bridge between those who need to be talking to each other.

CARBERRY: And to make it clear that someone will have to peacefully accept coming in second. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sean Carberry is NPR's international correspondent based in Kabul. His work can be heard on all of NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.