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Polls close amid claims of vote irregularities

Video by Oliver FARRY , Sonia DRIDI

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-08-20

Authorities will investigate complaints of voting irregularities, including claims that devices used for punching ballots often failed and that the indelible ink used to mark voters' fingers can be washed off, raising the prospect of voter fraud.

AFP - Afghanistan's election authority said it was investigating complaints of irregularities during Thursday's election as independent observers raised the prospect of low turnout.
   
The main challenger to President Hamid Karzai, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, released a statement detailing about 40 complaints, most of them alleging that officials were telling people to vote for the incumbent.
   
Azizullah Lodin, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said one of the complaints was that so-called indelible ink -- used to avoid people voting more than once -- could be scrubbed off with a cleaning liquid.
   
Presidential candidate Ramazan Bashadost had been among those to make the charge, Lodin said.
   
Lodin said he himself tested the ink, but insisted it remained fast.
   
"Still this must be investigated and we must try to find out why some of the ink gets washed off and some doesn't," he said.
   
Another complaint was that hole punches used to mark voters' cards failed, although this was remedied with the use of scissors, he said.
   
There were also some charges that voting centres did not have enough ballot papers, even though papers were allocated according to the number of voters registered at the site.
   
"We have told our offices to investigate if that is the reality or if some people had more voting cards than the registered number," he said.
   
Authorities said voting passed off largely without incident, although in the northern province of Baghlan a militant attack had prevented polling stations from opening on time.
   
They said there had been fewer insurgent attacks than expected.
   
The commission said it was hoping for a turnout of around 50 percent, roughly the same as for the 2005 parliamentary elections, but which would be significantly lower than the 70 percent during the 2004 presidential election.
   
But a Western observer said this figure was too optimistic, especially in the southern province of Kandahar where "turnout is definitely very, very low" and significantly lower than in the more stable north.
   
Another European diplomat estimated that turnout in some parts of the south was as low as 10 percent but still average to good in the north.
 

Date created : 2009-08-20

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