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Karzai passes 50%, but recount raises doubts

Video by Thomas ADAMSON

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2009-09-09

Afghanistan’s incumbent presidential candidate Hamid Karzai has the 50% majority he needs to avoid a run-off in partial results announced Tuesday. Meanwhile, a UN-appointed electoral fraud commission has ordered a recount.

Partial results of the Aug. 20 election released Tuesday showed Afghan President Hamid Karzai has passed the critical 50% mark necessary to avoid a run-off for the first time since the controversial poll.


At a press conference in Kabul Tuesday, the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that with 91.6% of the polling stations tallied, Karzai had 54.1% of the vote while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah had 28.3%.


The announcement came hours after the UN-backed Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) ordered a recount of a number of ballots since it had found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud".


In a statement released Tuesday, the ECC said it had ordered the Afghan election commission to recount results from polling stations where one candidate received more than 95% of the vote or where more votes were cast than the expected maximum of 600.


The announcement followed mounting claims of mass fraud and ballot-box stuffing that has raised serious questions about the legitimacy of the Aug. 20 poll.


Under Afghan law, final election results can only be declared after the ECC has investigated fraud allegations. Faced with more than 2,000 complaints, analysts say the ECC is unlikely to declare final results by Sept. 17, as originally planned.


‘An alarm, a wake-up call’


Tuesday’s announcements by the country’s election commission and its electoral complaints body marked significant firsts in Afghanistan’s post-election scenario, which could radically alter the nature of the international community’s involvement in the Afghan vote.


Over the past few days, Karzai has been inching ahead of his rival in partial vote results. The Afghan president was widely expected to cross the 50% vote threshold following Sunday’s announcement that the incumbent had 48.6%, with three-quarters of the votes counted.


While the results did not represent a final figure, Alexander Jackson, a policy analyst at the London-based International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), told FRANCE 24 that Karzai’s breasting of the 50% mark meant “a psychological barrier” had been passed.


“It’s now at a point where the international community needs to think of what it should do,” said Jackson. “It’s an alarm, a wake-up call.”


While supporters of several candidates have been accused of trying to influence the election outcome, some of the most serious charges are directed at the incumbent.


Tuesday’s announcement raised urgent questions about whether the international community would push for a second round given the widespread fraud allegations.


‘Clawing back’ credibility for the poll


While announcing the partial results, Afghan election officials said they had set aside results from 600 polling stations where irregularities were suspected and the list of those stations had been sent to the complaints commission.


Tuesday also marked the first time the ECC - an independent body comprised of three UN-appointed international commissioners and two Afghan commissioners -- went public with fraud accusations.


Reporting from Kabul, Jerome Starkey, GRN correspondent for Kabul, said the ECC recount was an attempt to “claw back some credibility for the poll, which has been widely marred by allegations of large scale ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation and violence. This call for a recount is an attempt to try to get to the bottom of these allegations.”


Political stasis, violence continues


The vote recount is likely to delay the final result announcement while the political stasis that has gripped the insurgent-hit country looks set to continue.


Tuesday was a particularly deadly day in Afghanistan, with four US and 10 Afghan soldiers killed Tuesday in a clash in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, according to US and Afghan officials.

The attack came hours after a brazen suicide bombing outside a NATO military base at Kabul's main airport killed three civilians in the worst attack in the Afghan capital since the Aug. 20 poll.

Date created : 2009-09-08