Audit of polling stations in Afghanistan hailed

Kabul : The European Union Election Assessment Team (EU EAT) has hailed the decision of the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) to launch an additional, ongoing audit of a number of polling stations in the second round of the presidential election, said a EU EAT statement received here Friday.

“The EU EAT welcomes the decision by the IEC to postpone the announcement of the preliminary results and to conduct an audit on polling stations with exceptionally high turnouts. However, the choice of the IEC to audit only polling stations with 599 votes and over significantly limits the possible detection of fraud,” Xinhua quoted the EU EAT statement as saying.

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“The audit could reasonably be extended to all polling stations with 595 votes and above, a criterion which could detect possible fraud on a wider scale,” Thijs Berman, said EU EAT Chief Observer, in the statement.

“The EU EAT estimates that other aspects of the results should be examined, such as highly improbable votes for one single candidate in polling stations, or unlikely discrepancies between female and male votes. Adding all these aspects together and according to IEC figures, the number of problematic polling stations could well exceed 6,000 out of a total of 22,828.

“Therefore, the EU EAT considers that additional fraud detection measures will be necessary to detect and eliminate potentially fraudulent votes in order to respect the democratic choice of Afghan voters,” the statement noted.

The preliminary results from run-off presidential election held June 14 will be announced July 7, following a delay to allow an audit of a number of polling stations.

The move follows accusations of vote-wrangling in the run-off vote between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, charges which ultimately pushed the IEC’s Chief Electoral Officer Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil to resign.

Amarkhil had reportedly left the country following the resignation, according to local media reports.

“In the interest of Afghan voters, and for the future stability of the country, a credible outcome is essential. I hope that the IEC will be able, in agreement with both candidates, to perform a more in-depth audit. This is technically possible without much delay,” Berman added.

The EU EAT will remain in Afghanistan until the end of the electoral process and will issue its final report shortly after, according to the statement.