Afghanistan's election body says it has nullified 1.3 million votes -- or nearly one-quarter of the ballots cast -- in last month's parliamentary election due to fraud or other irregularities.
The announcement was made by Fazil Ahmad Manawi, head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), at a press conference in Kabul.
"The total number of valid counted votes is 4,265,347. This is a great success for Afghanistan considering the current situation," Manawi said. "Unfortunately, we have disqualified about 1,300,000 votes."
Manawi also hailed the turnout for the September 18 vote
, put at around 40 percent. "Today, we are fortunate to be able to witness the great turnout of Afghans in these elections," he said. "We had very high turnout and we are proud of this, despite having to disqualify some of the votes."
The IEC also said the commission had also identified 224 candidates, around one-10th of the total, as "suspicious" over allegations of possible fraud.
Preliminary results were meant to be announced earlier this month but were postponed twice to allow more time for verification.
The commission said earlier this week that ballots from around 10 percent of the country's polling centers had been thrown out because of fraud.
The Electoral Complaints Commission still needs to rule on thousands of complaints lodged by observers, candidates, and voters, meaning it may be weeks before final results are released.
Election officials have hailed as a success the fact they were able to catch more than 1 million fraudulent ballots. But the large number of voided ballots indicates cheating was widespread, and is likely to raise questions over the validity of the outcome.
One observer expressing concern is Wadir Safi, professor of law and political science at Kabul University. Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Safi cast doubt on whether the commission had uncovered the full extent of the irregularities.
"Those who are entering parliament by fraud would not have the required mandate," he says. "They would pay no attention to the people's services because they are coming in by using money or bullying or coming to the parliament when they don't have the required backing of the people."
In the country's second post-Taliban parliamentary election, more than 2,500 candidates stood for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, amid voter intimidation with Taliban militants warning voters not to take part.
The credibility of the election is expected to weigh on U.S. President Barack Obama's review of Washington's Afghanistan war strategy in December.
The latest election followed last year's presidential vote which was marred by widespread fraud and the invalidation of a similar proportion of the votes.with agency reports