By Steve Herman
Complaints about fraud in Thursday’s presidential and provincial council elections in Afghanistan may further delay the announcement of official results. Officials continue to issue statments saying claims that anyone is leading the presidential contest are premature, inaccurate and unauthorized.
Election officials here are cautioning that previously announced dates to post official returns in mid-September may be pushed back.
The hitch lies with an anticipated large number of complaints, including ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. Many of these – and there are more than 225 and the number is growing – will have to be investigated on location in a country with rugged and hostile terrain.
The Electoral Complaints Commission says 35 claims have been deemed “a high priority” since they could affect the outcome of election results.
ECC member Fahim Hakim tells VOA that looking into these alleged electoral abuses could be time consuming.
“We are trying our best to address all complaints that we are receiving and the soonest, the better from our point of view,” he said. “We cannot in a way confine ourself that these are the ultimate dates that we may arrive to a final conclusion.”
The law prevents the release of officials results until these complaints have been adjudicated.
A domestic independent news agency, Pajhwok, quoting sources, reports incumbent President Hamid Karzai has 71 percent of the total based on 4.5 million votes counted.
The Secretary General of the Afghan Independent Election Commission, Daoud Ali Najafi, was asked by reporters about that figure.
“It is not accurate, I can tell you,” he said.
The IEC says it will only begin releasing partial results from some provinces on Tuesday.
The senior project officer for Democracy International, Bill Gallery, tells VOA News, it would have been ideal to have some results out earlier.
“The results were coming in from provinces Friday, which was the start of Ramadan and that slowed things down a little bit,” said Gallery. “Nevertheless, we think the IEC should be capable of publishing some partial results as they come in to help increase the transparency of the process.”
Officials also still not have released any figures for voter turnout, which observers predict may be as low as 10 percent in areas where the Taliban insurgency is active.
Voting was not conducted in nine districts but officials say that affected less than two percent of the electorate.
Meanwhile, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who is also claiming he has the most votes, is alleging “rigging” of the election by Karzai administration officials.
“This is under his leadership that all these things are happening and all those people which are responsible for this fraud in parts of the country are being appointed by him. I’m sure that he has all those reports. He knows about all of this,” said Abdullah. “This should have been stopped and could have been stopped by him.”
The challenger contends that ballots marked for Mr. Karzai are arriving from districts where voting did not occur and turnout is being reported as high as 40 percent in areas where only 10 percent of voters cast ballots.
The Karzai campaign denies such charges and accuses the Abdullah camp of carrying out fraud on election day.
If no candidate receives more than half of the total votes a run-off between the two top contenders is to be held in early October.