KABUL-- Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has called on his supporters to take to the streets to protest the reelection of President Ashraf Ghani.
But reports from across Afghanistan say that, despite Dostum’s rallying cry, there was little sign of major protests or celebrations by Afghans weary of the dragged-out election process.
Ghani was declared the winner of the presidential election on February 18 – nearly five months after the vote was held. The long delay was caused by a lengthy recount undertaken amid widespread allegations of electoral fraud.
The results were immediately rejected by Ghani's main rival, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and his running mate, Dostum.
Abdullah vowed on February 18 that he would set up an “all-inclusive” separate government – a move reminiscent of the angrily contested 2014 election in which Ghani was also declared the winner.
Abdullah also sent letters on February 19 to foreign embassies in Kabul asking them not to recognize what he described as the “illegal” election results.
Meanwhile, Dostum said on February 19 that the final official vote count by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) amounted to a “coup.”
Dostum called on supporters at a rally in his northern home province of Jowzjan to “hit the streets” to celebrate what he described as a victory for Abdullah.
“I, as your leader...ask you to support Dr. Abdullah with all your life and power,” Dostum told his supporters at the gathering.
There has been a muted response from the international community to the release of the final official vote count.
Dostum had been Ghani's running mate in Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election. But the 65-year-old ethnic Uzbek warlord has switched allegiances many times since the 1970s -- fighting alongside Soviet forces against mujahedin guerrillas and then with the former Northern Alliance that opposed the Taliban regime.
Dostum has been vice president mostly in name alone, spending most of the past four years in exile after being accused of rape and kidnapping.