Afghans await results of tainted presidential election


Kabul : Afghan election officials were expected to announce later Saturday whether a runoff vote would be necessary in the disputed presidential election.

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The results of the election have been delayed by the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission (ECC), which is probing thousands of allegations of vote fraud.

ECC spokesman Ahmad Muslim Khoram said the panel had nearly completed the sample audit of suspicious ballots and would deliver its findings to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Saturday.

IEC official said it would take at least one more day for the body to announce the final certified results.

The Washington Post and New York Times cited election officials Friday saying that President Hamid Karzai’s share of vote was below 50 percent, which would force a runoff with his main rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Afghan ambassador to the US Said Tayeb Jawad also said the second round was “likely”, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the incumbent would likely win if a second round of voting is held.

Abdullah, who has repeatedly accused Karzai of engineering the fraud, said this week that his team was ready for the second round of the elections.

Officials from Western countries who funded the August election are said to be nudging Karzai and Abdullah to form a coalition government, but both rivals in the past said that sharing power was not an option for them.

While Karzai’s team has not revealed his meetings with Western officials, Abdullah held several meetings with foreign ambassadors and had telephone talks with Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to his office.

According to the country’s election law, the second round of balloting has to be held within two weeks from the announcement of the final results, a major logistical challenge for the IEC.

A delay, however, could make polls impossible in central parts of the country due to the onset of winter.

While observers fear an even lower turnout than the 38.7 percent in the first round, due to Taliban threats and widespread frustration among Afghan voters, they believe a runoff would at least undo the election stigma caused by massive fraud.