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September 10, 09

NEWS / Patience Urged as Afghan Fraud Claims Are Investigated

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — The State Department spokesman says allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s August 20 presidential and provincial council elections need “a rigorous vetting,” and he urged Afghan voters and political leaders to show patience as their country’s independent election institutions deal with the fraud complaints.

“It is very important that these elections are seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people and in the eyes of the international community,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters September 8, adding it “could be a matter of months to sort out all of these allegations.”

Kelly said counting of votes is now drawing to a conclusion. Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has announced preliminary results for 91.6 percent of the country’s polling stations and have quarantined the results from about 600 other polling stations for further investigation, he said.

Afghanistan’s Election Complaints Commission (ECC), backed by the United Nations, alleged “clear and convincing evidence of fraud” in a number of polling places and has called on the IEC to take action, Kelly said, describing the ECC’s allegations as being “very concerning.”

According to press reports, the preliminary results announced by the IEC gave incumbent President Hamid Karzai 54.1 percent of the vote, with his nearest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, receiving 28.3 percent.

The next phase of Afghanistan’s elections is to deal with the fraud complaints. This phase, Kelly said, is “just as, if not more, important” than the counting process. The Obama administration is “not going to pronounce our analysis of the election until the whole process has played out.”

The United States has maintained throughout the elections process that the results need to be credible and reflect the will of the Afghan people. “We need to have a rigorous vetting of all of these allegations of fraud,” Kelly said. “[A] legitimate electoral process is vital to us and vital to any kind of partnership that we would have with the government going forward.”

So far “the process is working,” Kelly said, citing the ECC’s serious response to fraud allegations and the IEC’s decision to quarantine results for further investigation. “This is a good process and it needs to be given a chance to work itself out. And that’s why we all need to show a little patience and not get too ahead of ourselves,” he said.

The spokesman said that despite the fraud allegations, Afghanistan’s authorities have demonstrated that they can conduct an election “where millions of Afghans were able to freely express their will,” and added that the investigations into election irregularities are being carried out “by structures put in place and run by the Afghan authorities.”




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