Afghan officials cancel 1.3m votes

More than 20 per cent of ballots cast in the September 18 poll have been thrown out after fraud investigation.

    Afghans have learned that it will take three more weeks to determine the final vote tally [AFP]

    Afghan election authorities have thrown out 1.3 million votes, 23 per cent of the 5.6 million ballots cast in last month's parliamentary election, officials have said.

    "The valid vote is 4,265,347, and the invalid vote is around 1,300,000," Fazil Ahmad Manawi, the head of the Independent Election Commission, said on Wednesday.

    Many observers had hoped that the parliamentary elections would show the Afghan government's commitment to reforming its corrupt bureaucracy.

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

    The official said the parliamentary poll represented "politics as usual, just as corrupt and just as violent as last year".

    The 2009 presidential vote was widely criticised by the country's international donors amid allegations of electoral fraud - included ballot stuffing and voter intimidation - that invalidated 1.5 million votes, mostly for Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

    Progress in doubt

    The elections are part of a process intended to develop the country's nascent political system, which is seen as rife with cronyism.

    The current parliament is stacked with former warlords and power brokers, and many of the candidates in September's election have ties to Afghanistan's old elite.

    Afghanistan lacks political parties and parliamentary blocs form according to ethnic or geographical  alliances.

    But despite weak parties, powerful patronage networks, and entrenched corruption, the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) acts as a check on the power of President Hamid Karzai.

    Poll breakdown

    Last month, more than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats in the the Wolesi Jirga.

    But authorities disqualified the results from 2,543 polling stations, out of 3,345 stations investigated following the September 18 election.

    In addition, suspicious candidates have been identified based on allegations of possible fraud.

    "224 candidates are now being referred to the Electoral Complaints Commission," Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said.

    She said it would take another three weeks for the commission to look into the complaints.

    "But people are saying the [Independent Election Commission] has done its job," Turton said.

    Voter turnout

    Violence was relatively low - but so was turnout - during Afghanistan's second post-invasion parliamentary election.

    Threats issued before the vote - and worsening security around the country - convinced at least two-thirds of the voting population not to participate.

    In comparison, 6.4 million votes were cast in the 2005 parliamentary vote.

    Yet armed opposition groups caused less chaos and fewer casualties than feared.

    Taliban-led fighters, waging war on Karzai's Western-backed government, acted on threats to try and disrupt the election, which it said was a tool of the 150,000 US-led "occupation" forces.

    Insurgents ended up staging at least 300 attacks - fewer than they did in 2009. Casualties were comparatively low, with 24 people killed nationwide.

    The presidential vote last year was the deadliest day of the year in Afghanistan, on which 40 people were killed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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