Karzai wins majority amid ‘clear proof of fraud’

September 9th, 2009 - 3:16 am ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Sep 9 (DPA) Despite international pressure to carry out recounts, the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) Tuesday announced that President Hamid Karzai had achieved an absolute majority in the Aug 20 presidential election.
The UN-backed independent Election Complaints Commission (ECC) reported that there was “clear proof” of fraud in the election, and it ordered the IEC to review votes cast in the relevant polling stations.

The IEC said the latest count showed Karzai had 54.1 percent of the vote against 28.3 percent accorded his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, with 90 percent of the vote counted. A candidate must win at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.

Daoud Ali Najafi, IEC chief electoral officer, told a press conference in Kabul Tuesday that the IEC would not be able to recount the ballots until it counted 100 percent of the votes from the polling stations and announced the preliminary results.

Afghan officials and Western diplomats said Karzai was under increased pressure to allow the body to exclude more “fraudulent votes”.

Owing to mounting allegations of fraud, the IEC has excluded around 600 polling stations that accounted for more than 300,000 votes from preliminary results to be announced later this week, Najafi said.

The votes were suspicious and were sent to the ECC for adjudication, Najafi said, adding: “The ECC will decide if they would throw it out of the final result.”

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said there was a good process in place for evaluating the vote and urged patience in awaiting the investigation.

“It’s important that we have a transparent process here and everything is thoroughly, thoroughly investigated,” Kelly said.

“It’s not going to be a matter of days or weeks,” he said, adding it “could be a matter of months to sort out all of these allegations”.

However, an Afghan senior election official and Western diplomats told DPA Tuesday that there were more “fraudulent votes” that have so far been tallied in partial results announced by the IEC.

Abdullah accused Karzai’s camp of rigging the vote, and also accused the IEC of showing partisanship toward the incumbent. He has shown media what he claims to be list results of polling stations in southern and eastern provinces, where the results showed hundreds of identical numbers for Karzai and none for any other candidate.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ECC ordered the IEC to recount ballot boxes from polling stations in which a candidate received more than 600 votes as IEC pre-poll estimates only expected an average of 600 voters to arrive at any one polling station.

The order also urged the IEC to also exclude votes from polling stations, in which a presidential candidate received more than 95 percent of the total vote cast.

But Najafi said the ECC’s English version of the recount order did not match the text of the version in Dari, the local language, and that they had officially asked for clarification.

“If in case the ECC orders the IEC to recount the ballots for some polling stations, we cannot implement that until and unless we count all the preliminary result,” he said.

UN and Western officials believe that the fraudulent votes that have already been counted in the partial results could reach one million ballots, according to Western diplomats.

“I think if those votes are thrown out of the preliminary results, Karzai would not be able to receive 50 percent of the vote and there will be a run-off,” said a Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Sources also said US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and Deputy UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith met with Karzai Monday to urge the president not to interfere in the IEC’s work and allow it to exclude fraudulent votes.

The UN envoy in Afghanistan Kai Eide urged the IEC and ECC in a statement issued Tuesday to “redouble their efforts to ensure full rigour in their work at every stage”.

With the IEC refusing to do the recount and Karzai appearing to be the clear winner, the responsibility now lies on the ECC’s shoulders to throw out any fraudulent votes and lead the elections to a possible run-off.

But Afghan and Western officials stated that they believe the ECC would be unable to do so due to its shortage of staff, ultimately leaving the country in political limbo.

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