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Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 18:38 UK

Vote discontent simmers in Afghan north

By Moheb Mudessir
BBC Uzbek

Abdullah Abdullah
Mr Abdullah won most of the votes in the Mazar-e-Sharif area

In Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan's second city with its modern buildings and famous Blue Mosque, people are getting restless over the results of the Afghan elections.

In this usually peaceful part of the country, with its mixed population of Tajiks and Uzbeks, the main challenger to the incumbent Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, has won most of the votes.

So the announcement that Mr Karzai has taken more than 50% of the ballots counted so far across the country has put Mr Abdullah and his supporters in very difficult position.

As soon as the polls closed on election day, the Abdullah camp began to complain about alleged fraud, promising to take legal action to resolve its complaints.

And Mr Abdullah has made it clear all along that he is not going to accept a government that in his view has come to power on the basis of fraud and illegitimacy.

People have become disappointed and it is not unrealistic to imagine... protest and even bloodshed
Zalmai Yunusi, regional campaign head for Abdullah Abdullah

Zalmai Yunusi, the head of Mr Abdullah's campaign team in the northern province of Balkh, where he got a majority of votes, calls the election and the vote count a scandal.

Mr Yunusi said the Independent Election Commission had reacted to the Abdullah camp's complaints like the Roman emperor Nero.

"When Rome was burning, he was on the roof singing to himself," he said.

Mr Yunusi said Afghans had been happy that their country was moving towards democracy.

"But unfortunately all the people have become disappointed and it is not unrealistic to imagine that people might react angrily and that there can be protest and even bloodshed."

It is an opinion that is widely shared among Mr Abdullah's supporters.

'Deceived'

Khalid, a taxi driver who voted for Mr Abdullah, says that in some parts of Balkh province people are talking about big demonstrations to be held in the coming days.

"It's their right, because Karzai has deceived them and they should fight for their rights," he said.

Although the Afghan government has already warned people to avoid violence and that any violent protests will be met decisively, there are concerns of potential protests and confrontation between Mr Abdullah's supporters and those of other leading candidates.

Many people in Afghanistan - and not just in the north - believe that if the defeated candidates cannot accept the final result and feel their complaints have not been dealt with properly, they could cause a big headache for the next government.

The authorities can hardly afford facing another front being opened against them in this up-to-now fairly peaceful part of the country, given the many challenges they already face.



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