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Observers want Investigation of Afghan Election

  • Ira Mellman

Just a few days after Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, there is a call for an independent investigation into just what went on.

A report issued Monday by the independent Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan said the 7,000 or so election observers sent to polling places around the country found various forms of voting fraud. Nader Nadery is a spokesman for the foundation.

"Frauds did happen in different forms," said Nader Nadery. "We have seen ballot stuffing, proxy votes, underage voting and also multiple voting. The most serious one is the ballot stuffing, out observers have observed in around 280 centers, in 28 provinces where the ballot stuffing did occur."

Reports from polling places say anti-fraud measures weren't working or were being ignored. One such measure was to have voters dip their fingers into ink that wouldn't wash off for 72 hours, thereby curtailing ballot box stuffing. That ink reportedly was easily washed off. Other reports said poll workers were permitting people with obviously fake voter cards to cast their ballots.

With those reports, the Free and Fair Election Commission is calling for an independent investigation.

Afghan presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said "Like any other election anywhere in the world there are complaints, there have been irregularities, but we are waiting for the respective organizations to investigate these complaints and they should be the source of information to the Afghan people about the existence of irregularities or frauds."

Fraud and corruption have been a long standing problem in Afghanistan. Before the election was held, Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama administration, talked about that.

"In Afghanistan the problems have been much greater than elsewhere because of the history of the last 30 years," said Richard Holbrooke. "And because of the huge amount of international contracts, particularly American military contracts which provide such a lucrative opportunity for this kind of thing. And also because of the drug and narcotics trade."

The Afghan election commission has not yet provided an overall turnout figure, but it appears as though threats of violence along with other issues may have led to a smaller number of voters than in last year's election. Nearly 6 million ballots were cast last year, although widespread ballot box stuffing makes it impossible to tell how many people actually did vote.

As far as corruption is concerned, Richard Holbrooke says:

"Our goal in Afghanistan is not to eliminate corruption because that's not possible," he said. "It's to help the Afghans create a government which is responsive to the needs of the people and which the people regard as its friend."

According to the findings of a recent poll taken by the Kabul based Integrity Watch Afghanistan, corruption remains the third biggest concern to Afghans, following security and unemployment.

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