Fraud Complaints Could Affect Afghan Elections The American chairman of the commission investigating complaints about last Thursday's presidential polls in Afghanistan says some of the charges his team is reviewing are serious enough to affect the outcome.
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Fraud Complaints Could Affect Afghan Elections

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The American chairman of the commission investigating complaints about last Thursday's presidential polls in Afghanistan says some of the charges his team is reviewing are serious enough to affect the outcome.

At a news conference, Grant Kippen said the election complaints commission he chairs received 225 complaints from around Afghanistan.

Kippen said the allegations contained in the complaints they've received so far range from voter intimidation, violence, ballot box tampering and interference of non-independent election commission officials at the polls. Other complaints he noted included polling centers not opening and problems with the indelible ink used as a fraud-prevention measure to keep voters from casting ballots more than once.

Kippen said the more serious charges they're looking into came from provinces where Taliban gun and bomb attacks affected voter turnout and prevented independent monitors from going to the polls.

He said that 35 of the complaints could be significant enough to alter the final results.

"But I think it's important to point out that in order to do a proper investigation, we require as much information as possible about these particular irregularities." Kippen says it's not enough to just say there was voting fraud somewhere.

It's been difficult to do a full investigation, though, because of delays in moving ballots. Traveling with the ballots to the Afghan Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul are even more complaints from individual polling centers, adding further to the delay.

Some boxes are being brought in from remote areas by donkey or on horseback. Others are traveling on dangerous roads. Already, there have been two attacks on convoys carrying election material. Three election workers have been killed, and ballots — that had already been counted — were burned.

Preliminary election results are expected as early as Tuesday, although Kippen said it's too early to set any final date for certifying the results.

A candidate has to garner at least 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a runoff election. The two main presidential contenders, the incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, have both claimed they are ahead in the vote counting.

U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke met with the leading candidates on Friday and urged them against prematurely claiming victory.

Daoud Ali Najafi, the head of Afghanistan's election commission, said no one can predict who will win the election or whether there will be a runoff until all the ballots are back in Kabul.

Najafi also said it's impossible to gauge voter turnout at this point. He did say the 50 percent turnout rate that some people have claimed is "optimistic." Najafi said he's talked to polling officials in many districts who have reported a very low turnout.

Voting was considerably low in the south and the east of the country, where Karzai draws much of his support. Conversely, voter turnout was great in the north where Abdullah has a strong political base. These uneven voting patterns draw into question the legitimacy of the elections and any new government that may be formed.

Holbrooke, in an interview with The Associated Press, cautioned against rushing to judgment on the credibility of the election until the complaints process has run its course.