- Afghanistan - elections - fraud
AFP - Afghanistan's main challenger for the presidency warned Saturday that state-engineered vote fraud could fuel instability and Taliban insurgency, urging the international community to intervene.
August 20 presidential and provincial elections were tainted by claims of massive fraud and ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has taken the lead in denouncing President Hamid Karzai, who leads a partial vote count.
"We have insecurity in this country. We have bad government. We have corruption. We have narcotics. We have a war. We have an insurgency," Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul.
"On top of that, if a leadership is imposed on the people based on fraudulent elections what will happen? What will happen to Afghanistan?
"Regardless of what my sympathisers will be doing -- they might be staying calm -- but this in itself is a recipe for instability," he warned.
Abdullah urged the international community to investigate and said that a rigged election would hand another "excuse" to the increasingly deadly insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan authorities and foreign troops.
"I still urge our supporters to stay calm, but people's patience will run out one day because this situation cannot be sustained," he said.
"I hope that the international community looks into it and takes the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan and saves it," Abdullah added.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) postponed the scheduled release of the latest results until Sunday or Monday because of what a spokeswoman called "a technical problem".
Abdullah urged the IEC to stop releasing results until all claims were investigated, charging that those announced so far included "highly suspicious" votes rigged in favour of Karzai from up to hundreds of polling stations.
"It is illegal, it is against the electoral law but also... it is fraudulent," he said.
Spokeswoman Marzia Siddiqi said the IEC hoped to release the preliminary result at its next announcement. Final results are not due before September 17, but could also be delayed by inquiries from a complaints commission.
Results announced so far hand Karzai a lead of 47.3 percent from 60 percent of the polling stations and Abdullah 32.6 percent.
Both have claimed victory and Abdullah reiterated Saturday that he would reject any result he regards as compromised by fraud.
The winner needs to secure an outright majority of 50 percent plus one vote in order to avoid a run-off, which many observers have warned could be damaging if turnout proves even lower a second time round.
There have been fears that the results could effectively divide the country. Abdullah has his powerbase in the north, among ethnic Tajiks, while Karzai is influential in the Pashtun-dominated south.
NATO and Western allies have stressed in recent days their long-term commitment to keeping troops in Afghanistan to fight a resurgent Taliban, despite concerns about fraud and low turnout in the elections.
A NATO air strike in northern Kunduz province on Friday, which officials said killed scores of people, revived controversy over Western military operations that kill civilians as well as the intended insurgent targets.
Karzai said any targeting of civilians was unacceptable. His office said 90 people were killed and injured.