Afghan presidential votes ruled invalid due to ‘clear fraud’

AFGHANISTAN’S vote monitoring body has ordered the invalidation of ballots from last month’s controversial elections, finding “clear and convincing evidence of fraud”.

Afghans went to the polls in their second direct presidential election on August 20, but the vote was marred by low turnout and allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and other fraud.

“In the course of its investigations, the ECC (Electoral Complaints Commission) has found clear and convincing evidence of fraud” in 32 polling stations in two southeastern provinces, the commission said.

The ECC said the ballots from those stations will now be excluded from the final vote, which with almost all ballots counted, looks set to bring incumbent President Hamid Karzai a second term.

All presidential ballots in five polling stations in Paktika were invalidated, the ECC said, citing indications “that the ballots were not legally cast, or were not legally counted”.

In 27 polling stations in Ghazni, either all the presidential ballots, all the provincial council ballots – or in some cases both – were thrown out.

There are 600-700 presidential ballot papers and the same number of ballots for provincial elections at each of the country’s 25,450 polling stations, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has said.

Investigations in Ghazni found indications of fraud including unfolded ballots, miscounted ballots, missing material, and lists of voters with numerous fictitious card numbers.

Grant Kippen, chairman of the commission, said there would be no repeat voting, with the ballots simply being discounted.

He said investigations were going on in the rest of the 34 provinces, but was unable to give a timescale for the release of findings.

The IEC has announced initial results, with Karzai holding more than 54% of the vote, with most ballots counted.

But his main rival Abdullah Abdullah, trailing with less than 30% of the vote, has urged the IEC not to release results while the fraud claims remain unresolved.

The IEC hopes to release the full preliminary result tomorrow. The final confirmation of Afghanistan’s new president is not expected before September 17.

A US election monitoring group yesterday expressed “deep concern” about fraud after detecting unusually high turnout in some Taliban-plagued regions.

Polling stations in areas where low turnout had been expected because of threats from insurgents saw “unusually high turnout figures”, the National Democratic Institute said.

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