Mon, Aug 31, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Election fraud accusations exceed 550

AP , KABUL

Major allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election have topped 550, more than doubling the last figure reported by the commission investigating accusations, officials said yesterday.

The spike in allegations is a strong indicator of how pervasive ballot box stuffing and voter intimidation may have been during the country’s Aug. 20 vote, and could threaten the legitimacy of the election.

Partial, preliminary results have been released in small batches over the last few days, but results will not be made official until major fraud allegations are investigated.

Results so far show Afghan President Hamid Karzai leading with 46.2 percent of the votes and top challenger Abdullah Abdullah with 31.4 percent. The count is based on votes from 35 percent of the country’s polling stations. Karzai will need to reach 50 percent to avoid a two-person run-off.

The independent Electoral Complaints Commission has received more than 2,000 allegations of fraud and intimidation on voting day or during the counting of ballots, said Nellika Little, a spokeswoman for the group.

Of those, 567 have been deemed serious enough to affect the poll’s outcome if proved true, Little said. On Friday, the commission had reported 270 major allegations. It still is evaluating complaints, so the figure could rise further.

The investigations of fraud could greatly delay final results, which are already not expected until the middle of next month at the earliest.

The delay could create a power vacuum in Afghanistan or foment violence by supporters of Abdullah if they feel they have been cheated.

The fraud allegations have raised concerns about whether Afghans will accept the certified results when they are finally released.

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