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Election officials toss out millions of 'fraudulent' votes

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-20

Afghan election authorities threw out 1.3 million votes Wednesday, or nearly a quarter of last month's ballots, over alleged fraud in what is only the second parliamentary election held since the US-led invasion overthrew the Taliban.

AFP - Afghan election authorities on Wednesday threw out 1.3 million votes over suspected fraud in last month's parliamentary election, nearly a quarter of the 5.6 million cast.

The cancelled votes represent more than 23 percent of the ballots cast on September 18 for Afghanistan's second parliament since the Taliban regime's overthrow in a 2001 US-led invasion.

"The total number of ballots poured into the boxes was 5,600,000. The valid vote is 4,265,347 and the invalid vote is around 1,300,000," said Fazil Ahmad Manawi, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Noor Mohammad Noor, IEC spokesman, told AFP: "The 1.3 million votes have been invalidated for fraud and irregularities."

The vote was seen as a key test for the country a year after the Afghan presidential election was disgraced by massive fraud that saw 1.5 million votes -- again around a quarter -- thrown out, most of them cast for Hamid Karzai.

A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the parliamentary poll represented "politics as usual, just as corrupt and just as violent as last year".

More than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

Announcing preliminary results, Manawi said the IEC had identified 224 candidates as "suspicious" due to allegations of possible fraud.

Final results are not expected until the end of the month but could be delayed as an Afghan watchdog completes investigations of thousands of complaints, including against candidates.

With 68 seats in the Wolesi Jirga set aside for women, 406 women stood for election. Manawi said that both of the two seats in the southwestern province of Nimroz had been won by women.

"No man has made it to the parliament from Nimroz," he told reporters.

He said that 58.3 percent of the acceptable votes nationwide had been cast by men, 39.1 percent by women and 2.5 percent by Kuchi nomads, for whom 10 parliamentary seats are reserved.

"The total of valid votes included 2,488,378 votes by men, 1,668,617 cast by women and another 108,359 votes cast by Kuchis," he said.

Taliban-led insurgents, waging war on Karzai's Western-backed government, acted on threats to try and disrupt the election, describing it as a tool of the US-led "occupation" forces.

The United States and NATO have more than 150,000 troops in the country fighting the insurgency, and are expected to start to draw down combat troops from the middle of next year.

To that end, the United States is bankrolling a massive training programme for the Afghan army and police so they can take on responsibility for security by 2014.

The elections are part of a process designed to develop the country's nascent political system, which is rife with corruption and cronyism, and generally seen to help enrich a favoured few.

"These elections will do little to alter Afghanistan's system of patronage politics, and will certainly not alter the balance of power," the Western official said.

Afghanistan lacks political parties and parliamentary blocs form according to vested interests, such as ethnic or geographical alliances.

Date created : 2010-10-20


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