Afghanistan begins partial vote recount

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hamid Karzai in 2006
Image: Paul Morse, Executive Office of the President of the United States.
Abdullah Abdullah in 2004
Image: R. D. Ward, U.S. DoD.

Afghan officials are recounting a sample of the votes from last month's disputed presidential election, in an effort to resolve weeks of uncertainty about the outcome.

Preliminary results from the August 20 vote show the incumbent candidate, president Hamid Karzai, in first place, with 54%. But if enough votes are found to be fraudulent, and his tally falls below 50%, he will face a run-off against his chief rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

To speed up the recount process, the United Nations-backed panel investigating the fraud allegations agreed to allow election officials to review only a portion of the votes from polling stations with suspected problems. If any runoff is not held soon then the Afghan winter will prevent one until the spring should it be required.

The Electoral Complaints Commission said Friday that 313 ballot boxes had been randomly selected from the more than 3,063 stations considered suspicious. "It will be fair. We've got these international experts who have been doing this and who have advised that this is a good approach," said Electoral Complaints Commission head Grant Kippen.

The recount process is estimated to take around two weeks to complete.

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