Abdullah to set terms for run-off

Karzais challenger calls for measures to prevent fraud

Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who will be facing off against Karzai after a fraud investigation slashed the Afghan president’s share of votes to below the 50 per cent needed for outright victory, said measures should be taken to ensure a more credible vote.

Speaking at his house in Kabul, Abdullah said: “Some people lost their finger in the last round elections, (so) this is a serious issue, and in order to prepare the ground for transparency and fairness of the elections we have certain recommendations, suggestions as well as conditions that… we will come up with soon.”

Abdullah’s comments came as the UN said 200 out of the 380 district election officials from the government-appointed Independent Election Commission had been fired following evidence of vote-rigging.

“More than half of the district field coordinators are being replaced to prevent any attempted fraud or because there have been complaints made against them by candidates and observers,” said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.

Karzai agreed on Tuesday to a runoff vote following intense international pressure in the wake of a UN-backed investigation stripped him of almost one million votes he won in August.

Abdullah said while all preparations were being made to ensure the run-off — scheduled for 7 November — the logistics may yet prove impossible.

“I do hope (there will be an election) because if suddenly we have a bad winter, that’s a possibility, that’s a likelihood, but I am not speculating on a scenario that elections don’t take place on time,” he said.

The cutting of large parts of the mountainous north of the country by heavy snow is just one potential problem confronting a second round of voting.

Other issues include whether or not polling stations will open in areas so insecure that it is impossible to monitor fraud. Most such areas are in Karzai’s political heartlands in the Pashtun south. Last time the Karzai government successfully lobbied against attempts by some UN officials not to open so-called “ghost polling” stations in order to prevent fraud.

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