Afghan candidate Abdullah blames Karzai for election standoff
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah accused Hamid Karzai on Thursday of orchestrating a stalemate after last weekend's runoff election and said the incumbent would be responsible for any ensuing political crisis.
The vote is a decisive test of Afghanistan's ambitions to transfer power democratically for the first time in its history.
Preliminary results are not due until July 2 but Abdullah's refusal to accept the outcome has raised the risks of the war-torn country plunging into a protracted political crisis as most foreign troops prepare to leave Afghanistan this year.
Afghans braved Taliban threats to vote in a second-round run-off on Saturday but accusations of cheating have since created a deadlock between Abdullah and his rival, former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
Abdullah has demanded a suspension to vote counting and declared he had no trust in electoral bodies.
On Thursday, he directly accused Karzai, who was constitutionally barred from running for office again after 12 years in power, of playing a role in the standoff.
"Any undertakings will be regarded as illegal and whatever results are announced, are not acceptable to us," Abdullah told reporters. "This unfortunately has created a political stalemate and the president of this country and the electoral commissions are responsible for this stalemate and any consequences."
Karzai, expected to retain a hand in politics even after standing down, has repeatedly denied claims of interference.
"The government have been neutral in this process and we are on neither side," government spokesman Sifatullah Safai said in response to Abdullah's comments.
Ghani has not commented publicly on the election since Saturday but his spokespeople have said they would continue to cooperate with the vote counting process.
The chief of the election commission had said earlier that vote tabulation would not stop but that the authority was willing to answer any complaints raised by Abdullah.
Dozens of Abdullah supporters protested in Kabul on Thursday demanding action on the fraud allegations.
The run-off pitted Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban fighter with a support base among the ethnic Tajik voters, against ethnic Pashtun Ghani, after neither secured the 50 percent needed to win first round outright on April 5.
(Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Maria Golovnina/Mark Heinrich)