Afghanistan commission orders partial vote recount

A man walks past a billboard with a photo of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on September 6, 2009.
Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission on Tuesday ordered a partial recount of the ballots in the August 20 presidential election.

The complaints commission called on Afghanistan’s Independent Elections Commission (IEC) to conduct the audit and recount because of “clear and convincing evidence of fraud in a number of polling stations.” Most of that fraud evidence is an “exceptionally high number” of votes cast in a polling station “in relation to the number of ballots available” or an extremely high number of votes cast for only one candidate, according to the ECC. Therefore, the ECC is ordering an audit and recount of ballots at polling stations where the total number of votes is 600 or more, and represent a voter turnout of 100 percent; and where one candidate received 95 percent or greater of the total valid votes, if the total number of votes exceeds 100. The ECC has received more than 2,000 complaints since the election, including more than 700 it has deemed “Priority A.” The decision comes after U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry urged Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to allow the investigation into vote fraud, senior State Department officials said. The two met Monday night in Kabul, the officials said. Eikenberry urged Karzai to allow the IEC to thoroughly investigate vote fraud and determine which votes are accurate and then apply a very high standard to determine which votes are counted, according to the officials.

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Once that is determined, IEC officials would determine whether a runoff is necessary. In the days following last month’s election, the IEC has sought to reassure voters of its impartiality and transparency in tallying the results, mainly responding to fraud accusations by Karzai’s chief challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai ran for a second term. Abdullah is Karzai’s former foreign minister.

One official called it a “shot across the bow to the Afghanistan government” to make sure the IEC is free to do its job free of interference. As of Sunday, 74.2 percent of the votes had been tallied, the IEC said. Karzai had 48.6 percent of the vote, with Abdullah at 31.7 percent. Thousands of votes have been declared invalid.