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Intimidation, Fraud Mar Afghan Vote

Election observers are calling for reports of intimidation and fraud to be fully investigated, following Saturday's parliamentary vote in Afghanistan.

In a report released Monday, The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan [FEFA] said its major concerns include more than 300 alleged cases of intimidation and coercion of voters by local warlords.

Besides the reports of threats, FEFA said the parliamentary elections were marked by allegations of ballot-stuffing, repeat voting, underage voting, and the use of fake voter identification cards. The group had close to 7,000 observers monitoring the vote.

FEFA urged all state institutions to cooperate with investigations into alleged irregularities.

The Electoral Complaints Commission says it has already received more than 700 complaints since polls closed.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said Monday cases of fraud are "inevitable" and that it was fully committed to working with the complaints commission to eliminate the effects of fraud from the final tally.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, Waheed Omar, said Monday it was too early to judge the quality of Saturday's elections.

Election officials say close to four million Afghans voted for candidates running for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, known as the wolesi jirga.

Afghans braved violence to head to polls, with at least 22 people killed and more than 280 insurgent attacks reported throughout the country.

On Monday, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute said although violence marred the electoral process, millions of Afghans turned out to vote showing "courage and resolve" to move their nation to a more democratic future.

NDI also noted possible irregularities with the vote and called on domestic and international observers to closely follow the tabulation and complaints process. The group said its observers identified problems including ballot shortages and problems with indelible ink.

Final results are not expected before the end of October.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.