Election candidates have protested against a polling process they say was corrupt and shameful [Reuters]

Afghan authorities have arrested at least four people as part of an investigation into fraud in the country's September parliamentary vote.

The Afghan attorney-general's office announced the arrests on Thursday, saying that two of those detained were employees of the Independent Election Commission. The other two were working in the money transfer business, the office said.

Rahmatullah Nazari, the deputy attorney-general, said prosecutors were investigating at least five cases of election bribery involving sums ranging from $80,000 to $220,000.

Candidates claiming they were victims of phony vote tallies have taken to the streets across the country to protest after final vote results for 33 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces were announced on Wednesday.

Urging calm

While not yet publicly endorsing the results, Hamid Karzai, the president, has urged protesters to refrain from violence. 

"The president... calls on unhappy candidates and their supporters to avoid violence and disorder and take their complaints to the legal authorities to be addressed in the light of the law," a statement from his office said.

Final results have not yet been released for Ghazni province in the east where a myriad of problems clouded the ballot.

Abdullah Ahmadzai, a member of the election commission, says the panel had to decide between certifying and announcing the current results in Ghazni or ordering a revote for the province, where many polling stations were closed, others were excluded because of fraud and turnout was almost nonexistent in some districts.

As a result, no candidates from the majority Pashtun ethnic group won seats - a potentially inflammatory result in an already volatile province.

Instead, preliminary results showed that all 11 winning candidates are Hazaras, members of an ethnic minority group.

Election authorities have invalidated about 1.3 million of the 5.6 million votes cast after receiving more than 5,000 complaints of fraud in the wake of the poll. Of those, 2,500 complaints were classed as "serious".   

Pashtun leaders have said the Taliban, centred largely in the Pashtun-dominated south and east, prevented them from voting.

Karzai, himself a Pashtun, has said he would be in favour of a re-run in Ghazni "for the sake of our national unity".

Source: Agencies