Afghan vote fraud report due on Monday: official

A report into mass fraud allegations that have tainted Afghanistan’s presidential election is to be released Monday with President Hamid Karzai under intense pressure to accept a possible run-off.

The results of investigations by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will form the basis of a decision on whether Afghanistan can finally declare a new president or must go to the polls for a second time.

The paralysis since the August 20 election has angered Afghanistan’s backers. Senior US officials now say a political resolution is essential if President Barack Obama is to authorize extra troops to fight the Taliban.

“We are going public at 5:00 pm (1230 GMT),” ECC spokeswoman Nellika Little said.

The report is expected to cut Karzai’s lead from 55 percent in preliminary results, possibly triggering a run-off as the victor must have 50 percent plus one vote to form a new government.

Karzai’s main rival, ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, has 28 percent and has spearheaded vote-rigging accusations against the president, once a darling of the West whose administration is accused of rampant corruption.

“Our information is that Karzai has fallen to 47 or 48 percent and that the election will go to a second round, (but) Karzai is not ready to accept this result,” Abdullah’s campaign spokesman Sayed Aqa Sancharaki said.

The ECC is an oversight body charged with investigating fraud allegations that have plagued the August vote.

It reports to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a body appointed by Karzai that will make the final announcement on the election’s outcome.

An IEC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commission had clawed back votes for Karzai, putting him close to 52 percent.

The IEC is widely regarded as pro-Karzai and diplomats have accused the body of delaying tactics aimed at giving the president more time to reach a deal with Abdullah, possibly on power-sharing, that would avoid a run-off.

IEC spokesman Abdul Rahim Nawakhtyar said the commission expected to receive the ECC report later Monday.

An ECC official said, however, that the IEC was given the report on Sunday and was involved in detailed discussions about how its results were reached.

Nawakhtyar said the IEC needed “a day or two” to examine the details of the ECC report — which will include an order to cut candidates’ percentages based on the level of fraud detected — before making an announcement.

“We think that we might be able to make an announcement by Wednesday,” he said.

Patience among Afghanistan’s international backers has been wearing thin with the political crisis poised to head into a third month and Karzai under huge pressure to accept the results, officials and diplomats said.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Senator John Kerry both said over the weekend that it would be “irresponsible” to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent Taliban before the election is resolved.

“I think it would be irresponsible and… reckless to make a decision on US troop level if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether in fact there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space,” Emanuel told CNN.

Obama is considering a request from his military commanders for another 40,000 troops to boost the more than 100,000 already in Afghanistan under US and NATO command.

Emanuel’s words echoed Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and a close Obama ally, who met Karzai and Abdullah in Kabul at the weekend.

“It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country, when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working with,” he told CNN.

Karzai’s survival — and that of his government — depends on the continued support of the international community, which has poured billions of dollars in aid into the country since overthrowing the Taliban regime in 2001.

Agence France-Presse


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