Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Afghan poll fraud could sway result: commission

AP , KABUL

Charges of fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election are extensive enough that they could sway the final result, the commission investigating the complaints said yesterday.

The independent Electoral Complaints Commission has received 225 complaints since polls opened on Thursday, including 35 allegations that are “material to the election results,” said Grant Kippen, the head of the UN-backed body.

The figures include complaints about both the presidential election and provincial council polls.

Millions of Afghans voted in the country’s second-ever direct presidential election, although Taliban threats and attacks appeared to hold down the turnout.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s top challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, accused the president of rigging the vote. Another presidential candidate has displayed mangled ballots that he said were cast for him and then thrown out by election workers.

Election observers have said the voting process was mostly credible, but are cataloging instances of fraud and violence. The most common complaint in the 35 high-priority allegations was ballot box tampering, Kippen said.

He said the number was likely to grow. The commission has only received complaints filed at provincial capitals and Kabul so far and is still waiting for complaints that were filed at polling sites.

The top Afghan monitoring group has said there were widespread problems with supposedly independent election officials at polling stations trying to influence the way people voted. That group, the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, also catalogued violations such as people using multiple voter cards so they could vote more than once and underage voting.

The US special envoy to Afghanistan said allegations of vote rigging and fraud were to be expected, but observers should wait for the official complaints process to run its course before judging the vote’s legitimacy.

“We have disputed elections in the United States. There may be some questions here, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. I expect it, but let’s not get out ahead of the situation,” Richard Holbrooke said.

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