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Electoral Fraud Findings Reportedly Point To Afghan Runoff

Is Afghanistan capable of holding another presidential ballot in two weeks?

Is Afghanistan capable of holding another presidential ballot in two weeks?

(RFE/RL) -- After a lengthy investigation, Afghanistan's Electoral Complains Commission has released its final decisions relating to fraud in the recent presidential election, reportedly altering the vote count enough to force a second-round runoff.

The UN-backed commission did not release precise numbers as to how many votes were invalidated.

But media quoting unnamed international officials have said that the fraud was significant enough to bring incumbent President Hamid Karzai's tally below the 50 percent needed for a first-round victory.

AFP quoted an unidentified U.S. election monitor as saying the fraud would cut Karzai's vote count to 48 percent, while former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah's final tally would rise to nearly 32 percent.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has handed over its findings to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which is responsible for officially adjusting individual candidates' tallies and certifying the final results.

The preliminary election results of the August 20 election gave Karzai a first-round victory, with 54 percent of the vote. Abdullah received 28 percent of the preliminary tally.

However, those results were met with allegations of widespread fraud, leading to a lengthy investigation by the complaints commission.

The ECC announced in a press release issued on October 19 that it was ordering the IEC to "invalidate a certain percentage of each candidates' votes" due to violation found during the vote audit and recounting process.

The ECC also ordered that ballots from 210 polling stations around the country should be invalidated because of "clear and convincing evidence of fraud."

According to Afghan electoral law, the ECC's decisions and orders are final and binding, and the IEC is required to implement them in determining the final results.

The IEC has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that it needed "perhaps, 36 hours or so," to study the report before announcing the final outcome.

Wahid Mozhda, a Kabul-based independent expert on Afghan domestic politics, said he expects that it will take two or three days until the election results will be made public.

Karzai could still be named the first-round winner if the IEC were to provide final results giving Karzai more than 50 percent of the vote. A second-round vote, if necessary, would have to take place within two weeks.

In recent weeks, Karzai has made it clear he considers himself the first-round winner, and his supporters have reportedly threatened to delay or block a second round.