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18 Oct

Afghan election fraud inquiry results ‘blocked’

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Independent Electoral Commission accused of trying to hold up results expected to reduce Hamid Karzai’s votes

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, July 19, 2005

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, remains opposed to a second round of voting. Pool/Reuters

The organisation responsible for the Afghan election is trying to stop the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission (ECC) from throwing out enough of President Hamid Karzai‘s votes to force a second round.

Officials from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), a body seen as being heavily partisan to Karzai, managed to block a planned announcement today of the results of the fraud investigation by the ECC. The body, which is controlled by a majority of non-Afghans, is facing a growing chorus of anti-foreigner rhetoric in the government-owned media.

The investigation results are expected to reduce Karzai’s preliminary result of 55% to less than half of the votes, forcing a run-off with his nearest competitor, Abdullah Abdullah.

However, in private meetings between the two commissions, IEC officials questioned the findings.

“The IEC is trying to pick holes in every conceivable calculation and detail to try and hold things up,” said one official with knowledge of the discussions.

As thousands of Karzai’s supporters took to the streets in Kandahar province to denounce “foreign meddling” in the election result, IEC officials admitted they were looking into legal challenges to the ECC’s decision.

A rejection of the ECC ruling would dramatically escalate the political crisis in Kabul and western powers have spent the last few days frantically pushing Karzai, who is thought to control the IEC, to accept the final outcome.

On Saturday, US senator John Kerry had a late-night meeting with Karzai, but members of the president’s entourage indicated that the Afghan leader remains opposed to a second round.

Yesterday , Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omar, said there was “political interference by outsiders” in the fraud investigation.

“We are certain that if the technical process is followed through correctly Mr Karzai will receive more than 50% of the vote,” he said.

Also in Kabul yesterday was Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, who called on Karzai to accept the results. “Some people think that you can only be legitimate if you are elected on the first round,” he said.

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