KABUL — Thousands of supporters of the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah poured into the streets of Kabul on Friday, blocking roads and clogging squares as they demanded that allegations of election fraud be addressed before ending the political crisis that has stratified Afghanistan for the last two weeks.
It was the second such protest on behalf of Abdullah, who has accused his opponent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, of orchestrating widespread ballot stuffing with the help of the nation’s election commission. This time, however, as many as 15,000 people crammed into the streets of the capital, a show of force that eclipsed past efforts and drew people from well outside of the city.
The protests again remained nonviolent, and again were largely made up of young males from the country’s ethnic Tajik and Hazara populations, who form Abdullah’s support base. Different this time was Abdullah’s presence, standing on top of a moving vehicle, clutching a large Afghan flag while waving to a sea of admirers.
But a strain of tension and animosity visible at the earlier protest seemed amplified Friday, as the stasis over the election dragged into its 13th day.
“We are gathered here to show our unity and convey our message that either separate the fraudulent votes from the actual ones or we will continue our protest violently,” said Faiz Agha, a 23-year-old student.
Sherin Agha, 40, a former mujahedeen fighter, said, “If our demands are not fulfilled, be assured Afghanistan will face a serious crisis. We will go to the mountains, take weapons, and fight for our rights until we are responded with convincing answers.”
The protests are but the latest maneuver by the Abdullah campaign, which has already leaked two sets of recordings that supporters say show election officials and key government employees engaging in fraudulent behavior on behalf of Ahmadzai.
Abdullah had demanded a halt to the vote count and then turned his back outright on the process, convinced it was rigged.