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Afghanistan: Election Results Delayed As Fraud Probes Continue

Vote counting is mostly finished (official site) The certification of final results from Afghanistan's 18 September parliamentary elections has been delayed because of fraud complaints. A spokesman for the joint UN-Afghan election commission says about 500 complaints that are still being investigated could affect the outcome of some races. The allegations of fraud include the intimidation of voters, the stuffing of ballot boxes, and questionable vote-counting procedures.

Prague, 31 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The final results from Afghanistan's parliamentary elections initially were expected to be certified by 22 October. But the announcement was delayed at least until 1 November due to slow vote counting in some provinces.

Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), now says the date has been pushed back once again because of fraud complaints. He said certification of all of the results isn't expected until the end of this week, at the earliest.

"[On 30 October,] the commission announced that there are about 500 complaints that could affect the outcome of the election. They should be investigated, and then a decision should be made about the final list," Baheen said.

"These are all localized incidents. There is no evidence that there has been any attempt at countrywide fraud." -- JEMB official

The elections on 18 September for parliament and 34 provincial councils were the first for decades in Afghanistan. Since then, some 2,300 complaints about the vote have been officially filed with the JEMB. Hundreds of candidates and their supporters have staged protests in major cities -- including the capital, Kabul -- against fraud complaints and accusations of irregularities.

The latest delay in announcing the results marks the first time the JEMB has acknowledged that the fraud may be significant enough to affect results. In the past, commission officials had admitted there was widespread fraud. But they had insisted that the fraud would not damage the credibility of the elections.

Among them is Aleem Siddique, an international media-relations officer with the JEMB. Earlier this month, Siddique told RFE/RL that ballot boxes from about 4 percent of the polling stations across Afghanistan were put under quarantine by the JEMB due to "clear evidence" of tampering or other irregularities.

Siddique said that, to preserve the integrity of the election, the certification of official results must wait until decisions have been made about all of those polling stations -- and until all complaints about the preliminary results have been resolved.

"These are all localized incidents. There is no evidence that there has been any attempt at countrywide fraud. We're obviously dependent on the time that it takes to complete our investigation satisfactorily before we can actually certify results," Siddique said.

Eid al-Fitr, a three-day celebration marking the end of Ramadan, could further delay certification. Eid al-Fitr begins either on 2 or 3 November in Afghanistan. It is a decision made by the Afghan Supreme Court's religious commission on the basis of the sighting of the new moon.

The JEMB's Baheen said he thinks any results that aren't certified before Eid al-Fitr will probably have to wait until the end of those festivities. "[The results] of most of the provinces will be announced on [1 November]," he said. "And then it is possible, probably after [1 November], it will take two more days. If Eid [al-Fitr] is declared [during those two days], then in such case we will probably announce [the results] of the [remaining] provinces after Eid."

Provisional results announced in early October show dozens of candidates considered to be warlords or factional militia commanders appear to have won seats in the 249-member lower chamber of parliament.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service and RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari contributed to this report.)