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Presidential Rivals In Afghanistan End Dispute

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People in Afghanistan finally know who will be the next president. Afghans voted three months ago on a replacement for Hamid Karzai.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A dispute over the election delayed the final result, but now the key parties agree. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani will be president.

INSKEEP: One-time Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed that he will not be president, having lost an election for the second time amid claims of fraud. NPR's Sean Carberry reports.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: The dignitaries sat quietly in a hall at the presidential palace. Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two candidates, stepped up to a large, brown desk. Neither spoke, they each signed two copies of a document, shook hands and then hugged.

(APPLAUSE)

CARBERRY: And with that months of fraud allegations and sometimes bitter negotiations came to an end. What the two men signed was an agreement to form a government of national unity. That deal divides up cabinet ministries and creates a new position of executive CEO - kind of a Prime Minister light. The CEO will be nominated by the runner up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HAMID KARZAI: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: At the signing ceremony, outgoing President Karzai said the agreement brings hope to Afghanistan. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed the national unity government after preliminary results came out in early July. Abdullah alleged Ghani's lead was a result of systematic fraud. He threatened to boycott the results and declare his own government. The national unity proposal was designed as an incentive for the eventual loser to accept the outcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: And several hours after the signing ceremony, the election commission made it all official.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: What wasn't announced was the margin of Ghani's victory. That's because of another deal between Ghani and Abdullah, who believes that the UN supervised vote audit didn't eliminate all the alleged fraud. European election observers agree with him, but they say with the signing of the political deal it's time to move forward. Hundreds of Ghani supporters took to the streets of Kabul in celebration, but not all of them are happy with the unity government. Twenty-seven-year-old Abdul Aziz Mohman (ph) says the deal was a result of foreign pressure, and it will cause a lot of infighting.

ABDUL AZIZ MOHMAN: (Through translator) One should be the winner and the other should be the loser. There should be one president. I think this is a big mistake.

CARBERRY: Other Ghani supporters vented furiously on social media. They questioned how a democratic election could result in the loser getting a substantial share of the government. Many Abdullah Abdullah supporters still believe the election was stolen, but those we spoke with sounded hopeful. Mohammed Omar (ph), a 22-year-old student, says the prolonged uncertainty of the election was causing a crisis.

MOHAMMED OMAR: (Through translator) It's good to be united now, and it's a morale boost for people to get back to their normal lives.

CARBERRY: But he is worried about whether the deal will hold.

OMAR: (Through translator) As I watched on TV, neither one looked happy as they signed the agreement.

CARBERRY: God willing, he says, they will not create problems in the future. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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