September 6, 2009 in Nation/World

Karzai got every vote cast at some sites

Hal Bernton Seattle Times
 

KABUL, Afghanistan – Detailed polling records released by an Afghanistan election commission reveal numerous polling places in Kandahar province where all the votes were delivered to a single candidate: incumbent President Hamid Karzai.

The records bolster allegations of ballot-box stuffing during the Aug. 20 election to pick a new president to lead Afghanistan, which is now struggling against an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency.

In Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, the results from 66 polling sites have been released. In nine of them, 100 percent of the votes went to Karzai.

Also in Kandahar province, an area that was a target of insurgent attacks to try to suppress the vote, there were six polling places that had more than 100 percent of the estimated registered voters reportedly turn out – at one, turnout was nearly a third higher than the number of voters registered.

“It is state-organized fraud,” Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former minister in Karzai’s government, said Saturday.

Since the election, Abdullah has repeatedly called news conferences to allege misconduct in a flawed election. On Saturday, he invited reporters to a courtyard at his Kabul home. There, campaign workers installed a giant computer screen linked to the Internet records of the polling places, and Abdullah spent more than an hour in a public examination of some of the questionable polling results.

At one point, he read the voting tallies at six polling sites where Karzai received almost all the votes and where all the totals were rounded numbers ranging between 250 and 350.

The fraud allegations have created a tangled aftermath to the August election. The Obama administration had hoped the election would strengthen the Afghan people’s faith in a government set up in the aftermath of the 2001 U.S. invasion that overthrew the Taliban.

But the election process could drag on for many weeks as more than 600 high-priority allegations of ballot-box stuffing, voter intimidation and other misconduct are investigated by the Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission.

As of Saturday, results from about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s polling places had been announced. Karzai has more than 47 percent of the vote, compared with 33 percent for Abdullah – still shy of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.


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