KABUL, Afghanistan – An international team investigating allegations of fraud in last weekend’s presidential elections set aside a small portion of suspect ballot boxes Wednesday but approved the overwhelming majority of ballots for counting.
Under pressure to resolve disputes over Afghanistan’s first democratic presidential election last Saturday, two members of the U.N. panel began their work with the third member who is yet to be named.
Although the deadline for candidates to file complaints was extended until today, investigators said they will not set aside any more ballot boxes.
The U.N. team asked election organizers to isolate suspect ballot boxes in 11 polling stations in four provinces after receiving complaints from presidential candidates, Craig Jenness, a Canadian member of the investigating panel, said Wednesday. There were more than 22,000 polling stations, and some 5,000 polling centers, in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Jenness said the panel’s recommendation to segregate the ballot boxes “does not necessarily mean that irregularities took place. It does mean that in reviewing these complaints expeditiously, it was evident that further investigation was required in those locations.”
Ballot boxes were still arriving at eight counting centers across the country. Many were being transported on donkey back and helicopter from remote areas.
Hundreds of election workers have started to prepare the ballots for counting, but by Wednesday night, the tallying hadn’t started. The counting is expected to take several weeks before an official winner is declared.
The investigative panel was set up after 15 candidates who ran against U.S.-backed incumbent President Hamid Karzai announced a boycott of the election on voting day as complaints of irregularities mounted.