Audio recording reveals fraud in Afghan election

The commission said it had received an audio recording of a more than 20-minute telephone call purportedly between an election worker in Kabul and Ismail Khan, the Afghan minister of energy of water and the former powerful governor of Herat province in western Afghanistan.

The recording, first broadcast on Afghan television and obtained today by The Associated Press, is the latest allegation of fraud in the Sept 18 parliamentary election and one of the first pieces of evidence that high-level government officials may have tried to fix results.

Since preliminary results were released last month, candidates who lost because some of their votes were disqualified have been protesting across Afghanistan, alleging that ballot boxes were stuffed, legitimate votes were discarded and some members of the election commission caved to pressure to make sure certain candidates won.

Election officials so far have excluded 1.3 million ballots, or about 23 per cent of the 5.6 million cast. More than 4,000 complaints have been filed with a government election fraud watchdog group, which has submitted 413 of the complaints to the attorney general's office.

Noor Mohammed Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, or IEC, said the commissioners have not yet identified the voices on the tape.

"We have started a very serious investigation to identify the persons who are speaking over the phone with each other," he said.

However, one of the losing candidates in Herat province listened to the recording and claimed he was positive that the two talking were Khan and election worker Abdul Rashid Ershad.

The candidate, Ghulam Qadir Akbar, claimed Ershad taped the phone conversation and gave copies of the recording to some of the candidates to prove that Khan was pressuring him to tamper with vote counts.

"We know that Ershad was under pressure from Ismail Khan a lot," said Akbar, chairman of the chamber of commerce in Herat for the past nine years. "Very clearly I can say that it's Ismail Khan's voice who is ordering the IEC employee to have certain people win and certain people lose."

"Ershad passed the recording of the telephone conversation to some of the candidates and told them that he was under pressure from Ismail Khan - that Khan was putting pressure on everybody in the election commission because he wanted specific people" to win seats in the parliament, Akbar said.

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