Abdullah Abdullah, a leading challenger for the Afghan presidency, has alleged widespread vote-rigging as authorities said on Sunday they were probing 225 claims of abuses in the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.
AFP - A leading contender for the Afghan presidency who says he is ahead in the count after last week's election alleged widespread rigging as authorities said Sunday they were probing 225 claims of abuses.
Western allies hailed the elections as a successful vote for democracy, but a litany of flaws and evidence that the vote was not totally free have mounted since Thursday's poll and fuelled speculation about a possible run-off.
"There are widespread irregularities, fraud and efforts for rigging," said ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai's closest challenger and who, like the incumbent, claims to be leading the vote.
He said his team received "constant reports" that turnout, which observers say was the lowest for an election since the 2001 US-led invasion, was in some areas inflated by four times the real figure, with all the votes for Karzai.
"Since this is a sign of widespread rigging, I thought the people of Afghanistan deserve to know what is going on and the international community deserves to know about our concerns," he said.
Abdullah ran an energetic campaign and his claims of success, coupled with reports of a miserable turnout in Karzai's southern powerbase, have boosted speculation about a run-off, which would take place in early October.
To avoid a second round, one candidate would need to win an outright majority of 50 percent plus one vote. With definitive results not due until next month, Afghan and Western officials are calling for calm.
Abdullah's powerbase in the north means he has the widespread support of Tajiks, whereas Karzai's strong influence in the Pashtun-dominated south means the two largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan are potentially divided.
Abdullah said the allegations of rigging had been directed to Afghanistan's independent Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for investigation.
"As of close of business yesterday, the ECC had received approximately 225 complaints. And these are complaints on and since election day," ECC chairman Grant Kippen told reporters earlier.
The charges include tampering with ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, violence, failures of supposedly indelible ink meant to prevent people from voting twice and interference in polling, he said.
"Thirty-five have been assigned a high priority and these are ones that we had to deem to be material to the outcome of the election results," he said.
The election authority is expected to release turnout numbers this week but observers have reported low figures, including just 10 percent in some areas.
Insurgents from the Taliban, which was in government between 1996 and 2001 and is strong in the south, threatened to attack polling stations to disrupt the vote.
There were a series of rocket and bomb assaults on election day, but no catastrophic large-scale attacks.
"We are aware of significant complaints of voting irregularities in provinces that were affected by violence on polling day," Kippen said, adding that these included the southern province of Kandahar.
Although the election was hailed a success in foreign capitals which have pumped billions into Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion and deployed 100,000 troops to contain a Taliban insurgency, concerns have mounted.
"Free was not the case in some parts of the territory due to terror installed," said the head of the EU observation mission, Philippe Morillon.
The Free and Fair Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) mentioned cases of intimidation, multiple and under-age voting, fraud, ballot stuffing, partial election commission staff and militants cutting off the fingers of two voters.
Date created : 2009-08-24