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Fraud Panel Throws Out Votes in Afghan Election

By Sean Maroney
19 October 2009

The U.N.-backed commission investigating reports of fraud in the Afghan presidential poll has ordered the country's election officials to invalidate results at 210 polling stations. Diplomatic sources in Kabul say they believe the findings set the stage for a second round of voting.

The Electoral Complaints Commission says it found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" after its nearly two-month-long investigation into Afghanistan's August 20 poll.

In its report, the Commission says some polling stations had what it described as "uniform markings" on all of the ballots that were submitted.

In a statement released Monday, the ECC ordered the country's separate Independent Election Commission to invalidate what it called "a certain percentage" of each candidate's votes, but it did not elaborate.

U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan Aleem Siddique says it is now up to Afghan election officials to decide what to do next.

"We expect the Independent Election Commission to implement those orders and move swiftly to announce either a final certified result or the requirement for a second round as stipulated by Afghan electoral law," Siddique said.

Preliminary results from the election showed Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning with 54 percent. His nearest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, had 28 percent.

But the U.S.-based election monitoring group, Democracy International, calculated the ECC's findings and found that Mr. Karzai's new vote total fell below 50 percent, requiring a second round.

Mr. Karzai's spokesman, Waheed Omer, tells VOA they are reserving judgment until after election officials make their ruling.

"This report that has been published today is a complex document with a lot of technical terms. It does not give us any indication as to where this report is taking the election," Omer said.

But Abdullah's spokesman, Syed Hussein Aqa Faazal Sancharaki, responded by saying they welcomed the ECC report.

"According to the announcement, Mr. Karzai did not win this election. We should go to a second round in this election," Sancharaki said.

It is not clear if the Independent Election Commission, which was appointed by President Karzai, will accept the findings and declare a runoff.

Mr. Karzai's election team has criticized the Electoral Complaints Commission procedure for collecting the information regarding fraud. Most of the fraudulent ballots are believed to benefit the Afghan president.

International leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have urged the Afghan government to resolve the political crisis, which they believe is undermining efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan in the face of a growing Taliban insurgency.

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