Election watchdog says 4,200 complaints filed about Afghan vote

Election watchdog says 4,200 complaints filed about Afghan vote

Afghanistan's electoral watchdog said Wednesday that it received more than 4,000 complaints of fraud and irregularities, and the main opposition leader alleged evidence of "massive fraud" during the parliamentary elections, DPA reported.

Ghazi Murad Sharifi, chairman of UN-backed Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC) said thousands of complaints had been received about irregularities before and during Saturday's voting.

"We have received 2,500 complaints in formal and written way from 34 provinces," Sharifi said in Kabul. "Of that number, we have registered 570 complaints today."

The ECC also received around 1,700 complaints about irregularities and electoral violations during the nearly three-month campaign, while 3,000 more complaints were lodged by phone, he said.

Sharifi said complaints from callers could not be addressed unless they were submitted in writing.

More than 2,500 candidates, including 400 women, vied for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament. Election officials said they expected many of the losers and their supporters to file complaints.

Observers and campaigners reported widespread irregularities and fraud, including ballot-staffing by election workers, underage voting and double voting.

More than 4 million people defied Taliban attacks and intimidation by local powerbrokers to cast ballots. The attacks were not serious enough to derail the process, but caused a lower turnout.

Election officials put the turnout at around 36 per cent, slightly lower than last year's presidential vote that was marred by massive fraud and Taliban attacks.

Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the main opposition group said Wednesday that his team had "solid evidence" that showed "massive fraud and massive rigging."

Abdullah finished second in the presidential election but dropped out of a planned run-off, saying there were no assurances that the fraud would not be repeated. The ECC threw out more than 1.5 million votes, mostly in favour of President Hamid Karzai.

Abdullah warned of consequences if the ECC and the official Independent Election Commission fail to address the fraud complaints.

"It is still possible to correct what has happened and to address what has happened," he told reporters at his home in Kabul.

The allegations of fraud could undermine the legitimacy of the elections, which cost 150 million dollars.

Final official results were expected around the end of October, but preliminary results could be declared as early as next week, according to officials.

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