Afghan Presidential Rivals Hold Parallel Inauguration Ceremonies

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Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, his first Vice President Amrullah Saleh (L) and second Vice President Sarwar Danish (R) taken an oath during their inauguration, in Kabul, Afghanistan March 9, 2020. Photo: REUTERS

KABUL – Afghan President-elect Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdul­lah Abdullah have held rival swearing-in ceremonies, suggest­ing that their US-brokered talks over a disputed presidential race have yielded no result.

Television footage showed Ghani taking an oath at the presi­dential palace in Kabul at a cer­emony attended by a number of foreign diplomats, including US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Meanwhile, there were re­ports that the inauguration cer­emony was temporarily disrupted by the sound of a rocket explosion in Kabul, but that President Ghani was unharmed and continued to address the event.

Presidential candidate and ri­val in the September 2019 disputed election Abdullah Abdullah held his own ceremony at a similar time.

The two rivals had earlier postponed their plans to hold par­allel inauguration ceremonies to allow for more time to resolve their differences over the 2019 vote.

Afghanistan’s former Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah and cleric Shahzada Shahid attend a swearing-in ceremony of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani (not pictured), in Kabul, Afghanistan March 9, 2020. Photo: REUTERS

Abdullah, who serves as the chief executive officer of the out­going administration, has rejected a decision by Afghanistan’s Elec­tion Commission last month to an­nounce Ghani as the winner of the presidential election, proclaiming himself to be the president-elect.

An official who declined to be named said Ghani, Abdullah and Khalilzad held meetings on Monday morning as they worked towards a deal to prevent two par­allel inauguration ceremonies.

Abdullah’s office confirmed that Khalilzad on Monday had held three meetings with the chief executive to “find a solution” for the matter, but had not succeeded.

Afghan politicians had earlier voiced concerns about the future of an attempt to hold two inaugura­tion ceremonies in a single day, be­lieving it will push the country into a new political crisis. The country’s previous presidential election was also marred by a similar dispute involving Ghani and Abdullah, which was resolved by a US-bro­kered power-sharing agreement.

The new row comes just days after the US and the Afghan Tali­ban militant group reached a ten­tative deal on the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country fol­lowing months-long talks, which excluded the Kabul government.

The Afghan government should now be preparing for talks with the militant group following the US-Taliban deal.

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