Afghanistan election: Karzai stripped of majority win

A UN-backed body investigating fraud in the Afghanistan election announced new vote tallies Monday that may force top candidates President Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah into a runoff.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP
A torn election poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen in Kabul on Monday.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election may be headed for a run-off after an international commission invalidated more than a million fraudulent votes Monday.

The final results have yet to be certified by the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC). However, binding decisions by the United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) left no single candidate with a majority, triggering a second round between the two candidates.

To add to the complications that come with the call for a second round, President Hamid Karzai’s campaign has dismissed the announcement as a deliberate – and political – attempt to erase his majority win.

According to Democracy International, an elections monitoring group that analyzed the ECC’s results, Mr. Karzai now has 48.3 percent of the vote down from the preliminary 54.6 percent, while top challenger Abdullah Abdullah has 31.5 percent, up from 27.7 percent. About 1.3 million of 5.6 million total votes were declared invalid.

The announcement ends a two-month review that has shaken faith in the legitimacy of the Afghan government. The move into a runoff round, in the short run, will not immediately smooth over such concerns given serious doubts about whether the runoff will be accepted by Mr. Karzai’s supporters, expected low turnout, and the technical challenges of holding a second vote before winter.

After investigating the most serious complaints, the ECC is ordering 210 polling stations around the country to be invalidated. The ECC also ordered certain percentages from each candidate’s votes to be subtracted based on the results of a separate audit and recount process that looked at polling stations with suspicious results. It did not give specific figures.

A member of Karzai’s campaign, lawmaker Mohammad Moin Marastyal told the Times on Monday that “effort has been made to lower Karzai’s vote to below 50 percent,” and “now we are in a deadlock.”

Even before the announcement, Karzai’s camp had questioned the legitimacy of a runoff. "If there is a second round based on a political deal between anyone, then obviously the people have the right to say, 'You didn't take our vote seriously the first time, why should we vote a second time?' " spokesman Waheed Omer told the Monitor.

Check in later today for a story on how the Karzai campaign might respond to the results.


-- This version has been updated to include new information. 

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