Flashback: Has Karzai overstayed his welcome? | Britain and US prepared to open talks with the Taliban | Afghan President Karzai registers for re-election, picks warlord as running mate | Afghanistan needs 4,000 extra soldiers for elections: NATO | Canadian troops could soon target Afghan drug trade: top soldier | Reports reveal concerns over drug use among Canadian military | Afghan government sacks Kandahar governor | US faces downward spiral in Afghan war, says leaked intelligence report | NATO to let troops fight Afghan drug lords | Karzai’s kin linked to heroin trafficking | Afghani Narco-state Continues to Blossom under Puppet President
Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star
August 24, 2009
KABUL—A polling station located right in the home of a district police chief: not smart.
A district police chief who happened to be appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai: really not smart.
A polling station in the home of a district police chief appointed by Karzai, in a province, Kandahar, where the president’s half-brother — widely accused of breathtaking corruption — is the de facto governor: really really not smart.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah — main rival to the incumbent in Afghanistan’s presidential elections — made the accusation yesterday, claiming the police official in question had stuffed ballot boxes in favour of Karzai and wouldn’t let his campaign observers into that polling site.
He further charged that in the province of Ghazni, a turnout originally estimated at just 10 per cent — as assessed by his monitors — suddenly ballooned to 40 per cent, with all those extra ballots cast in six specific districts, for Karzai.
Such is the escalating fraud factor in last Thursday’s election.
Abdullah baldly accused Team Karzai of rigging the vote. “He uses the state apparatus in order to rig an election.”
Doesn’t matter, the challenger added, if Karzai was not directly involved in the cheating.
“All this happens under his eyes and under his leadership. All those people who are responsible for this fraud in parts of the country are appointed by him.”
A spokesman for the Karzai camp said: pshaw. In fact, Team Karzai has formally filed allegations of fraud against Team Abdullah.
And round she goes, with preliminary election results due tomorrow, unless officials change their minds.
These grievances have now landed in the lap of Grant Kippen, the Canadian who heads the Elections Complaints Commission. Whatever the preliminary numbers, no ratified result will be issued until Kippen signs off on them, and that might not happen until next month.
Kippen told reporters that his panel has thus far received 259 complaints, 35 of them — relating to both presidential and provincial council candidates — assigned high priority for their seriousness.
“These are the ones we deem material to the outcome of results.”
Complaints run the gamut, from violence and interference to ballot box tampering and a parliament member apparently taking boxes home overnight.
Kippen confirmed serious allegations of irregularities arose in Kandahar, Ghazni, Kunduz and Wardak.
Kandahar is Karzai Country, his family’s ancestral home and nearly exclusively populated by fellow Pashtuns.
It has been generally assumed that Karzai needs those Pashtun votes to retain the presidency, yet voter turnout in the province might have been as low as 5 per cent, due to Taliban threats and electoral apathy.
Kippen has also received complaints about the Independent Elections Commission, the Karzai-appointed body that mounted this vote.
“We’ve received complaints with respect to the conduct of IEC officials.”
The commission has the authority to cancel ballots and even order re-polling at specific stations.
Kippen says the number of complaints will no doubt go up in the coming days. Thus far, he’s heard only from provincial polling centres and all of Kabul. It’s not necessary, however, to wait on more complaints before launching an investigation. “We can act on our own initiative if we believe irregularities have occurred.”
The UN-backed ECC is paying particular attention to the reports of many domestic and foreign observer groups who monitored the elections; their specific concerns have already been tabled.
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