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Afghanistan May Delay Announcing Winner of Presidential Election

The September target date for announcing the official results of Afghanistan's presidential election may be in jeopardy, as numerous complaints of voting fraud have emerged.

Daoud Ali Najafi, the head of the Independent Election Commission, which counts the votes, says "complaints have to be adjudicated" before results can be announced.

The Electoral Complaints Commission, which investigates voting fraud, says two weeks is not enough because of the large number of claims.

By Sunday, the commission had received 225 claims of voting fraud for Thursday's election, including charges of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. 

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his chief rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, are both claiming victory.

The senior program officer of Democracy International, Bill Gallery, says his organization is concerned about the delay in announcing the election winner.  He said the Election Commission should publish results as they come in "to help increase the transparency of the process."

The Election Commission chief says "partial results" from some provinces will be released Tuesday.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, said Sunday, election disputes - in his words - "wouldn't surprise me." 

Holbrooke, speaking in Herat in western Afghanistan, said the U.S. would "respect the process" established by Afghanistan to determine the winner of the balloting. 

Election monitors in Afghanistan said violence and intimidation prevented the presidential vote from being entirely free.

However, the head of the European Union observer mission Philippe Morillon called the process generally fair. 

If neither candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held.

U.S. President Barack Obama has congratulated Afghans for voting despite extremist threats.  He called the election an "important step forward."

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