At Side-by-Side Ceremonies, Afghans Swear in Two Presidents

09 March 2020

Afghanistan's top two presidential candidates were sworn-in as president at competing ceremonies Monday.

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah each claim to have won the September 2019 elections. Last month, government officials declared Ghani, the incumbent president, the winner. But Abdullah, the incumbent Chief Executive, dismissed the results and promised to set up his own government.

Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

Many foreign diplomats attended Ghani's swearing-in ceremony in central Kabul. Among them was the United States envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. Also present was General Scott Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan.

A short distance away, however, Abdullah was being inaugurated as president.

Both inaugurations started late because U.S. officials were trying to settle the dispute between Ghani and Abdullah. However, after several hours, the ceremonies began.

On February 19, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission announced that Ghani had won just over 50 percent of the vote, compared with just around 40 percent for Abdullah.

But Abdullah claimed that he had won the election. He claimed that vote-rigging helped Ghani's vote totals.

This is the second time the election for president of Afghanistan has resulted in disagreement. Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed victory in the 2014 presidential election. The United States helped negotiate a power-sharing agreement, with Ghani as the president and Abdullah as the chief executive, a newly formed office.

Taliban - U.S. peace agreement threatened

The latest disagreement has led to a political crisis that may threaten a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. The agreement was signed February 29 in Qatar. It requires the Taliban to open talks with an Afghan delegation that includes political forces and civil society. The aim of the talks is to negotiate a permanent cease-fire.

The Taliban planned talks this week with Afghanistan's government. Those discussions will probably not take place on time because of the inauguration crisis, political observers said.

One observer, Atta Noori, told the French news agency AFP that "Unity is the only way [forward] if they want to win on the negotiating table."

Afghan politicians and the public have taken to social media to express their anger at Ghani and Abdullah.

"Their actions are an insult to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation," wrote Hekmat Khalil Karzai, a former deputy foreign minister. "Afghanistan needs to be shielded from those responsible for this tragic comedy."

Karzai is now chairman of the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Ayaz Gul reported on this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins adapted it with additional content from AFP for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

incumbent – adj. currently holding office

envoy – n. a person who is sent by one government to represent it in dealing with another government

inaugurate v. a ceremony to swear-in someone, such as a newly elected official, into a job or position

vote-rigging – n. the act of buying votes or using other illegal methods to influence election results

ultimate – adj. final; ending or last

shieldv. to protect or shelter

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