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Asia-pacific

Parliamentary vote count begins amid charges of fraud, intimidation

©

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-19

Allegations of fraud, voter intimidation and mismanagement have arisen after a parliamentary vote held Saturday amid a wave of insurgent attacks and election-related violence. The bodies of three election workers were found Sunday in Balkh province.

AFP - Allegations of fraud and a low voter turnout overshadowed vote counting in Afghanistan's parliamentary election Sunday after widespread and deadly Taliban violence targeted the key poll.
   

Western supporters praised the more than four million Afghans who, according to preliminary figures, took part in Saturday's election, compared with the 4.8 million valid votes cast in last year's presidential poll.
   
The bodies of three election workers were found Sunday in northern Balkh province, the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said, following the country's second parliamentary polls since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001.
   
The death toll from the day's violence was not finalised, but NATO said at least 22 people were killed, while the interior ministry put the number so far at 15.
   
Election observers said polling day was rife with complaints of delayed poll station opening, intimidation, ineligible voters, misuse of registration cards, proxy voting, poor ink quality and shortages of ballot papers.
   
The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said it was compiling reports of irregularities.
   
"The main types of complaints are the bad quality of the indelible ink and the use of fake voting cards," ECC spokesman Ahmad Zia Rafaat said.
   
Among those to complain was the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), which said that voting had been affected by insecurity, violence and irregularities including ballot stuffing.
   
"Taking these problems into account, FEFA has serious concerns about the quality of the elections," the monitoring group said.
   
Violence had been expected after the Taliban announced it would attack polling centres, election workers and anyone who turned out to vote.
   

ON THE AFPAK BLOG
Insurgents fired rockets in several cities and set off bombs at a polling station and beside a convoy carrying the governor of Kandahar, the Taliban's southern stronghold, but officials said several more attacks were foiled.
   
More than 2,500 candidates contested the 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga. Among them, 406 women were vying for 68 seats reserved for them under legislation designed to better their rights.
   
Stressing that it was not a final figure, Fazil Ahmad Manawi, head of the IEC, said more than four million votes had been cast, amounting to 40 percent of those registered to vote, according to early calculations.
   
In last year's presidential election, turnout was estimated at 38.8 percent, according to IEC fitures. The ECC said it invalidated more than 1.2 million votes, mainly on the basis of fraud.
   
President Hamid Karzai praised "the courage of the people" in turning out to vote on Saturday, saying in a statement he "considers this a positive and major step for strengthening democracy in this country".
   
He commended Afghan security forces and election officials, and said allegations of irregularities should be assessed quickly to allow final results to be announced, a statement released by his palace said.
   
Preliminary results are expected on Wednesday, with final certified results due on October 31.
   
Afghanistan's key Western backers, the United States, United Nations and European Union, were quick to congratulate the country for holding the polls.
   
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen lauded voters for getting out the vote "despite the violence carried out by those attempting to deny the people's most basic democratic right".
   
NATO figures showed a total of 485 violent incidents on Saturday, including 294 insurgent attacks, which compared favourably to 479 on August 20 last year, the day of the presidential election.
   
The United States and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have around 150,000 troops in the country fighting to bring an end to the long war, now dragging towards its tenth year.
   
US General David Petraeus, commander of the international force in Afghanistan, commended the role played by the Afghan national security forces, who were supported by ISAF troops in providing security.
   
"The voice of Afghanistan's future does not belong to the violent extremists and terror networks, it belongs to the people," Petraeus said.

 

Date created : 2010-09-19

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