Fraud complaints balloon in Afghan vote count

The number of major allegations doubled over the weekend to 700. With one-third of the vote counted, President Hamid Karzai widened his lead to 46 percent.

The votes are still being counted from Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 presidential election. But as vote tallies are growing, so are reports of fraud.

Over the weekend, the number of major fraud allegations more than doubled to 700, a development that may require investigations and delay the vote count, reports the Associated Press. The number of major allegations could rise as an election commission evaluates the remaining 2,000-plus complaints.

The Christian Science Monitor pointed out last week that “since electoral observers weren't present at many polling places, much fraud could have taken place out of view. Aside from a negligible contingent of international monitors, independent Afghan monitors only covered 60 percent of the polling centers.”

A Canadian analyst called the vote an “ungodly mess,” according to the CanWest news service.

Karzai ekes ahead

By Saturday, about a third of all votes had been counted, giving incumbent President Hamid Karzai’s a wider margin, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Saturday's results show Mr. Karzai has 46.2%, up three percentage points from earlier in the week and well ahead of the 31.4% obtained by Dr. Abdullah, a former foreign minister and the lead challenger – but still short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff.

The two million votes already counted represent one-third of Afghanistan's polling stations. The electoral commission said it will provide the next update Monday.

The Wall Street Journal adds that how the vote plays out has implications for Washington as much as Afghanistan.

At stake in the vote is not just the credibility of the new Afghan government, but also that of the U.S. and its allies, who have backed the democratic experiment with troops on the ground, say Western diplomats.
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