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Afghanistan: First Provisional Election Results Announced For Two Provinces

Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body today announced the first provisional results from parliamentary and provincial elections. The results in the southern provinces of Nimroz and Farah come nearly three weeks after some 6.8 million people turned out to cast ballots. Election officials say initial results from all 34 Afghan provinces should be announced within the next seven days. But investigations into complaints of vote fraud must be resolved before final official results are certified. That could take until the end of October.

Prague, 6 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Election officials in Afghanistan have begun releasing provisional results for the September 18 parliamentary elections. The results are being announced in phases -- with the vote count in just two provinces announced today.

Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the Afghan-UN Joint Electoral Management Body, or JEMB, tells RFE/RL that vote-counting is now complete for all of Afghanistan -- with the exception of ballots boxes from about 1,000 polling stations that have been quarantined for investigation of suspected electoral fraud.

"With the count completed, we have just announced the provisional results for Nimroz Province and Farah Province -- both in the south of the country," Siddique said. "We expect to be able to announce all provisional results [for all 34 Afghan provinces] within the next seven days. For each province, there will be a five-day period for people to challenge that result. If no complaints are received, then the provisional result will be certified by the UN-Afghan electoral body."

The results announced today reflect races for the 249-seat lower house of parliament -- showing leading candidates for two seats from Nimroz Province and five seats from Farah Province. One seat in each of those provinces is reserved for the leading woman candidate.

The results also show the leaders in nine provincial council races from each of those two provinces. The provincial councils will help determine the membership of the upper chamber of the Afghan parliament.

Siddique told RFE/RL that election officials hope all results will be finalized by 22 October. But he said the process could take until the end of the month -- depending, to a large extent, on official challenges of the provisional results.

"We have quarantined a number of ballot boxes from polling stations across Afghanistan because of irregularities," Siddique said. "These are all localized incidents. There is no evidence that there has been any attempt at countrywide vote-tampering or fraud -- which is encouraging. The JEMB has so far decided to exclude 299 polling stations countrywide from the count where there is clear evidence that the vote has been tampered with."

Siddique said Kabul's western district of Paghman is one area where there have been serious allegations of fraud on election day.

"Polling stations in the Paghman district of Kabul were quarantined due to allegations and visual indications of fraud," Siddique said. "After investigation, the JEMB has decided to exclude 62 of the polling stations from that particular district where there has been clear evidence of fraud. Thirty-two regular [polling] stations and 24 nomad stations were included in the count, however, where there was insufficient evidence of fraud."

He said another area of concern is the southern province of Paktika -- an area where U.S.-led coalition forces continue to fight the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

"The review of a significant amount of quarantined stations in Paktika province continues," Siddique said. "[On 5 October,] the JEMB decided to exclude 76 polling stations [from Paktika Province] where there was clear visual evidence of fraud. Forty stations are still pending review. That's out of a total of 898 [poling] stations [in Paktika Province.]"

But Siddique concluded that the level of fraud confirmed so far will not undermine the credibility of the election.

"Across Afghanistan, there are nearly 27,000 polling stations," he said. "The number of polling stations that have been placed in quarantine equates to about 4 percent. We think that this is completely normal for a post-conflict environment such as Afghanistan, and does not impact the overall integrity of the vote. We remain determined to resolve the outcome of those quarantined polling stations so that they do not impact on the integrity of these elections."

Nevertheless, as unofficial preliminary results become increasingly available, there are signs of dissatisfaction among candidates who are not the front-runners.

An RFE/RL correspondent in northeastern Afghanistan reported that 11 candidates in Badakhshan Province filed formal complaints today with election officials. They allege that the emerging preliminary results do not reflect the will of Badakhshan's voters.