Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks to supporters at a meeting in Kabul in July, 2014.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks to supporters at a meeting in Kabul in July, 2014. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes file photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Abdullah Abdullah, runner-up in Afghanistan’s long, contentious electoral process, on Thursday pledged to work with President-elect Ashraf Ghani in a government of national unity “to save Afghanistan.”

Under a U.S.-brokered power-sharing arrangement, Abdullah is expected to occupy the new post of chief executive, who will report to the president on the implementation of government policies.

“We will work as a team and we hope we will fulfill the hopes and dreams of our people,” Abdullah told cheering supporters in Kabul. “The people should not have any concerns that (we) will divide the country.”

The agreement, hammered out after three months of bitter disputes over accusations of massive electoral fraud in the June 14 runoff, provides for Ghani and Abdullah to name key members of the new government on a near-equal basis — thus diluting the president’s current sweeping political powers, senior Western diplomats in Kabul said.

However, many of the chief executive’s powers, although outlined in the power-sharing agreement — even the creation of the position — are yet to be confirmed “by presidential decree,” according to the agreement.

The chief executive will chair a new Council of Ministers, which will “implement the executive affairs of the government,” while the president will chair the cabinet, according to the agreement.

Despite the agreement’s stipulation that the president and chief executive are “honor bound” to work together in a “spirit of partnership,” analysts have warned that the compromise between the two men remains fragile due to the long and acrimonious election battle. While their domestic policies do not differ significantly, they draw their support from different regions and ethnic groups.

However, a senior State Department official noted in a briefing with reporters in New York on Wednesday that Gahni and Abdullah had worked together before when they were finance minister and foreign minister respectively under current President Hamid Karzai.

“They have a good working relationship,” the official said, and have been careful not to accuse each other personally of fraud or undermining the process.

“They really do have this very common conceptual vision of what needs to be done on behalf of the Afghan people,” the official said, speaking on condition of not being further identified.

But they will have to work out the exact division of duties, the offiical said, adding it was likely ”the president will lay out broad policy issues, strategic issues, and that the chief executive officer will help to actually implement and operationalize them.”

Human rights groups have criticized the power-sharing deal as undemocratic.

Although the national election commission this week proclaimed Ghani as the winner following a U.N.-supervised recount of all 8 million ballots, it has not yet released the final results for fear that they could reignite tensions between the two camps.

Western diplomats who helped break the electoral deadlock said Abdullah had accepted the novel position of chief executive, but he has not himself yet confirmed that.

“I think that the political deal was the best option and alternative to overcome the situation,” Abdullah said. “We signed (it) to save Afghanistan.”

One of the priority tasks, he said, would be to fix the electoral system, which allowed extensive voter fraud in presidential elections in 2009 and this year.

“One of our other main goals is to bring reforms in the electoral system so that in the future no candidate should face the same problems we faced,” he said.

Another key part of the agreement provides for a constitutional Loya Jirga — or council of tribal elders and other dignitaries — to meet in 2016 to reform the constitution. The major change would involve amending the current presidential system for a parliamentary one, creating the position of prime minister to assume most administrative powers, diplomats said.

Both Abdullah and Ghani are committed to signing the bilateral security agreement with Washington, allowing nearly 10,000 U.S. servicemembers — mainly advisers and counter-terrorism teams — to remain in Afghanistan past December. NATO allies are expected to contribute another 2,000-3,000 troops to the follow-on mission.

The State Department official said he expected the agreement to be “fully signed in a matter of days after the new administration starts.” Ghani is to be inaugurated Monday.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

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