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Abdullah leads in tight Afghan presidential poll

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-13

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is leading against his main rival Ashraf Ghani in a tight race for Afghanistan’s presidential post, partial official results showed Sunday, but reports of widespread fraud is marring the election.

Initial results based on 10 percent of the vote from 26 out of 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 41.9 percent, the Independent Election Commission said, while Western-leaning academic Ghani came second with 37.6 percent.

A third candidate, running with the backing of two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers, trailed far behind with 9.8 percent.

“I want to make clear that the results could change in future, as we announce the results with additional percentages of the vote and this is not the final result,” said the chairman of the election commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.

Afghanistan’s allies praised the April 5 vote as a success because of the high turnout, estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks on the day.

Number of fraud incidents exceeding 2009 vote

But evidence of widespread fraud could undermine the legitimacy of an election meant to usher in Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power, as incumbent Karzai prepares to step down after more than 12 years in power and Western forces prepare to leave.

Observers say the number of recorded incidents of serious fraud have already exceeded the figures for 2009, when over a million suspect votes were thrown out.

The election complaints body hinted it might need more time than expected to investigate all of the complaints though the volume would not affect the overall schedule for electing a leader. Final results are due on May 14.

“There is a possibility, in order to review the high number of complaints accurately, that we may expand the time frame for reviewing complaints in provinces for some days,” said Nader Mohseni, spokesman for the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC).

The three front runners have all complained of fraud.

To win, a candidate must secure more than 50 percent of valid ballots. Failing that, the top two candidates go into a run-off.

Partial results from a sample of ballots were expected on Saturday but were delayed until Sunday.

Stuffing ballot boxes

The IECC has recorded a total of 870 incidents of fraud classed as “Priority A”, complaints considered serious enough to affect the outcome of the election, higher than the 815 incidents recorded in 2009.

That said, the greater number recorded this year could reflect a greater willingness or capacity on the part of observers and voters to complain about fraud.

Video clips of polling station workers and other people stuffing ballot boxes are circulating on the Internet, but it remains unclear whether fraudulent votes might have benefited any one candidate over another.

In 2009, ballot-box stuffing was the most common type of fraud. The complaints commission has yet to disclose which type of suspected fraud was most prevalent this time.

Overall, the IECC has recorded a total of 3,724 complaints, exceeding the total of 3,072 in 2009. The number could rise as complaints reported in the provinces reach Kabul.

Urban participation in the election was unexpectedly high, but it is unclear to what extent rural voters were deterred by the Taliban, who condemned the vote, and what role state officials, including police, had in encouraging people to back a particular candidate.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-04-13

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