News / Asia

Election Complaints Overwhelm Afghan Voter Commission

Afghanistan's U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission says it has received nearly 3,000 formal complaints about Saturday's parliamentary elections, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the vote.

The commission says it received more than 1,300 of those complaints since election day, while the rest came before the vote.  Tuesday was the official deadline for Afghans to file complaints.

Shortly after the polls closed Saturday, the ECC said it received allegations of fraud and misconduct that included late-opening polling centers, ballot shortages and voter registration fraud.

Ahmad Nader Nadery is the head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, which was one of the monitors of the vote.

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

Some election observers also voiced concerns that local warlords intimidated or coerced voters in some instances.

But Grant Kippen of the election monitoring group National Democratic Institute in Afghanistan said the enthusiasm of the voters and participants was a good sign as Afghanistan grows as a democracy.

"Any election, it does not matter what country you go to, there is always room to improve, always improvements that can be made," Kippen said.  "The important thing is to understand the process and to be honest and frank about how improvements can be made."

Afghan election officials have said cases of fraud were inevitable and that they are working to eliminate the effect from the final results. Preliminary election results are expected next month, with final results likely announced at the end of October, after officials resolve all complaints of fraud or misconduct.

Election officials say nearly four million Afghans voted in Saturday's election, in which more than 2,500 candidates competed for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.

The NATO-led international security force says it recorded more than 300 incidents of election-related violence that the Afghan government says resulted in at least 22 deaths.

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