EU observers: up to one fourth of votes in Afghan election suspicious

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Monday, October 19, 2009

President Hamid Karzai
Image: Paul Morse.

Initial results gave Afghan President Hamid Karzai more than the 50% of votes necessary to re-elect him in the country's recent presidential elections. However, after a month of speculation about vote-rigging, officials from the United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) have discounted ballots from 210 polling stations. European Union observers have claimed that as many as one in four votes may be in doubt.

The Afghanistan ECC has published a report about their investigation into allegations which emerged after the polls two months ago. The EEC has stated that there was "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" at polling stations throughout the country. As the ECC reports to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) no official announcement has been made yet, although by law the IEC is obliged to accept the EEC findings; however foreign diplomats have suggested that the IEC may not accept the findings.

President Karzai has refused to accept the investigation's findings, which reduce his share of the vote from around 55% to under 50%, leading to what Mohammad Moin Marastyal, one of the campaign team members, describes as "deadlock". Marastyal claims that the EEC deliberately altered the facts to force a runoff. "Effort has been made to lower Karzai's vote to below 50 per cent," he stated. "Now we are in a deadlock."

The EEC announcement was expected at the weekend, but was delayed whilst foreign diplomats attempted to persuade President Karzai to accept a runoff vote with his main rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. The UN sent its top envoy, Kai Eide, who has been meeting daily with both contenders.

The United States is still considering its position on troop numbers in Afghanistan. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said yesterday: "I think it would be irresponsible and [...] it would be reckless to make a decision on US troop level if, in fact, you haven't done a thorough analysis of whether in fact there's an Afghan partner ready to fill that space."