Afghan vote count excludes more than 1 million ballots
Afghan electoral officials, releasing preliminary results of last month’s parliamentary election, said Wednesday that they had tossed out more than a million ballots because of proven or likely fraud.
The decision by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission laid bare the enormous extent of malfeasance in the Sept. 18 vote, which initially was billed as a showpiece of the country’s nascent democracy.
But it also demonstrated the ability of formerly pliant electoral officials to disqualify ballots because of ballot box stuffing, wholesale vote buying or threats to voters from gunmen, among other offenses.
The large number of nullified ballots was an embarrassment to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which had pledged that all efforts would be made to ensure that the election would be free and fair.
Paradoxically, it also represented a potential advance in the integrity of those responsible for securing the vote.
The Independent Election Commission — government-appointed, despite its name — said that about one-fourth of the 5.6 million ballots cast would be nullified.
In the tainted 2009 presidential vote, the disqualification procedure fell mainly to a United Nations-appointed oversight body, which also must give its blessing to the final results of last month’s election.
The Independent Election Commission, or IEC, like many Western officials, had painted a somewhat successful scenario in the wake of the balloting, simply because so many Afghans turned out to vote despite Taliban threats, and because the insurgents staged no successful large-scale attacks on voting day.
Election officials said at a news conference Wednesday in Kabul, the capital, that 1.3 million of the 5.6 million ballots had been discarded.
“We can state with pride that the turnout exceeded our expectations,” IEC Chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi told reporters. “In the current situation in Afghanistan, this amounts to success.”
Because of the clouded nature of the result, it was difficult to say whether the new 249-seat lower house of the Wolesi Jirga, or parliament, would be likely to adhere to the wishes of Karzai. The outgoing parliament, in its final months, had challenged many of the president’s decisions and policies.
It may be another month before complaints are adjudicated and a final tally is determined.
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