Recounting ordered in Afghan vote

Recounting ordered in Afghan vote

UN-appointed watchdog finds clear evidence of fraud

The announcement came on the same day a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle outside a Nato military base at Kabul’s main airport killing three civilians, the Afghan capital’s worst attack since the vote.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said returns must be recounted and audited for any polling station where more than 600 votes were recorded — the most authorities believe should have been cast at any station — or where any candidate received more than 95 per cent of the vote if more than 100 were cast. International officials initially hailed the August 20 election as the Taliban fighters failed to scupper it. As fraud charges mount, however, those assessments have become more guarded.

Recent tallies have shown President Hamid Karzai just shy of the 50 per cent majority needed to win in a single round without a run-off, with uncounted votes from the heartland of his support in the south appearing likely to put him over the top. His main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, says many of those southern votes are fake, a charge given stronger credibility by the ECC’s findings.

“In the course of its investigations, the ECC has found clear and convincing evidence of fraud in a number of polling stations,” the body said in a statement. Most of the stations where it found fraud had either a larger than expected number of total votes cast, or a higher than expected proportion cast for a single candidate, it said.

The ECC is led by a Canadian and three of its five members were appointed by the UN. It has the power to set aside results as reported by Afghanistan’s own Independent Election Commission (IEC). The IEC was due to release nearly-complete preliminary results later on Tuesday.

3 civilians killed

The airport attack was a further demonstration of deteriorating security at a time violence is at its worst and Western popular support for the war is rapidly eroding.
The head of criminal investigations for Kabul police, Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, said three civilians were killed and six wounded in the airport attack. No foreign troops were killed, though four were lightly injured, Nato said. Huge flames could be seen rising from the blast site and the wail of sirens could be heard several kilometres from the civil-military airport, which has experienced a series of Taliban rocket attacks and a suicide strike in the past.

A Taliban spokesman said by phone from an undisclosed location that the militants were responsible for the blast, targeting Western forces. The attack came less than a month after a suicide car bomber struck the Nato headquarters entrance in Kabul, killing at least seven people and wounding 100.

The war has also become a matter of major controversy in Germany three weeks before a general election, after German troops called in a US air strike last week that Afghan officials say killed scores of people, many of them civilians.

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