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August 24, 2009

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Fraud complaints on rise in Afghan presidential election

CHARGES of fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election are extensive enough that they could sway the final result, and the number is likely to grow, the commission investigating complaints said yesterday.

The independent Electoral Complaints Commission has received 225 complaints since the start of last Thursday's vote, including 35 allegations that are "material to the election results," said Grant Kippen, the head of the United Nations-backed body.

The figures include complaints about both the presidential balloting and provincial council polls.

Millions of Afghans voted in the country's second-ever direct presidential election, although Taliban threats and attacks appeared to hold down the turnout, especially in the south. Final certified results won't come until next month.

President Hamid Karzai's top challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, widened allegations of fraud against Karzai and his government yesterday, saying ballots marked for Karzai were coming in from volatile southern districts where no vote was held, and that turnout was being reported as 40 percent in areas where only 10 percent of voters cast ballots.

"This is a sign or evidence of widespread rigging," Abdullah said.

He said a border security commander in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, General Abdul Raziq, used his house as a polling station and stuffed the ballot box for Karzai. Other polling sites were in border police posts that Raziq controls, Abdullah said.

Raziq denied the charges, saying that everyone in Spin Boldak voted in the appointed polling centers, which were schools and mosques. He said he and his border police were busy maintaining security and did nothing to tamper with the process.

"They are just spreading propaganda, the people who are saying there was fraud," Raziq said. "If there is any proof of it, please show me."


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