Afghan presidential rivals set to ink ‘unity government’ deal

KABUL: Afghanistan´s two rival presidential candidates are due to sign a power-sharing agreement Sunday, officials said, forming a potentially rocky coalition that will end a prolonged stand-off over the disputed election result.

The final vote count is also scheduled for release, after being delayed for last-minute talks to break a deadlock that has plunged Afghanistan into a political crisis as US-led troops end their 13-year war against the Taliban.

Ashraf Ghani — who won the run-off vote according to preliminary results — is set to emerge as president, with Abdullah Abdullah nominating who will fill the new post of “chief executive officer”, possibly taking on the role himself.

Both Ghani and Abdullah claim to have won the fraud-tainted election, and the United Nations has pushed hard for a “national unity government” to avoid a return to the ethnic divisions of the 1990s civil war.

“Both candidates are expected to sign an agreement on the structure of National Unity (Government) tomorrow,” Aimal Faizi, spokesman for outgoing President Hamid Karzai, said on his Twitter account late Saturday.

Under the Afghan constitution, the president wields almost total control, and the new government structure will face a major test as the country´s security and economic outlook worsens.

The vote count has been plagued by months of setbacks amid allegations of massive fraud, emboldening the Taliban insurgents and further weakening the fragile aid-dependent economy.

“The IEC will officially announce the final result of the presidential election tomorrow,” Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP on Saturday.