Afghan poll results delayed

Election commission announces second postponement of parliament vote marred by fraud allegations.

The Wolesi Jirga is the only body allowed to question the policies of President Karzai [EPA]

The Afghan government has decided to again postpone the announcement of preliminary results from the country’s second parliamentary election amid an ongoing recount that now encompasses a third of the polling stations that opened for the September vote.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) had originally planned to release more election results last week but rescheduled a press conference for Sunday. Just hours before the expected time on Sunday, the IEC cancelled again and set the announcement for Wednesday.

The IEC has already released partial results, but the final tally remains unknown.

The committee said the reason for the delay was to be “more accurate and precise,” but the repeated postponements come amid allegations of widespread fraud and vote-rigging of a poll conducted during intensified attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government groups.

Around 4.3 million Afghans turned out on September 18 to cast their votes in the country’s second parliamentary election since the US-led invasion that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Serious fraud

Anti-government forces were kept from committing as much violence as they did during the 2009 presidential election, but international and Afghan election observers as well as Afghan parliamentary candidates are alleging serious fraud.

Ahmad Zia Rafat, the spokesman for joint Afghan-international Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), said on Saturday in Kabul that the organisation has been reviewing over 4,500 complaints, including marking faked voting cards and irregularities during the polls.

The New York Times newspaper reported on Sunday that nearly 25 per cent of the votes are likely to be thrown out due to fraud.

While the IEC has refused to disclose the number that will be discarded, but the committe told Al Jazeera on Monday that 571 polling centres had been disqualified entirely and another 1,117 were being recounted. That means that more than one third of the 5,510 centres that opened on election day are now under scrutiny.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said that most Afghans would probably consider a 25 per cent attrition acceptable, given the reports of rampant fraud.

Thousands of candidates were running to fill the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, which holds elections every five years.

The Wolesi Jirga is the only body that is given a mandate to scrutinise the policies of Hamid Karzai, the president.

It must also approve his ministers and pass and reject laws proposed by the president and his ministers, and may demand explanations of government policies.

Under pressure

Afghan and Western observers told the New York Times that they were worried the IEC was under political pressure to change the election outcome, especially for a handful of powerful figures.

According to an election official, the commission was said to have worked intensively through the weekend and until 4am on Sunday morning to reach the results, a statement that may have pointed to a planned announcement on Sunday.

Although Karzai and his inner circle backed a number of candidates, it is so far unclear whether they did well enough to guarantee him the 130 seats he is seeking – enough to be sure of a majority on important issues.

The main opposition to the president, Abdullah Abdullah’s Coalition for Hope and Change, is reportedly watching the expected polls results closely.

One of the movement’s organisers, Ahmad Wali Massoud, said that despite the delays, his group is all but certain to have 88 seats, enough to gain considerable political power.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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