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10 September 2009 

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Afghan Election Fraud Commission Throws Out Suspect Votes

10 September 2009

Workers count ballots at the Independent Election Commission in Kabul, Afghanistan, 27 Aug 2009
Workers count ballots at the Independent Election Commission in Kabul, Afghanistan, 27 Aug 2009
The commission investigating reports of vote fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election is invalidating the ballots from polling stations in two provinces.

The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission announced Thursday that it is excluding votes from 32 polling stations in Ghazni and Paktika provinces.

In a statement explaining its decision, the ECC cited "clear and convincing evidence of fraud", including unfolded ballots, uniformity of markings and lists of voters with fictitious card numbers.

The commission has also ordered recounts for ballots from some polling locations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has welcomed the partial returns from the country's controversial August 20 presidential elections, which gave him 54 percent of the vote.

But his main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah who has 28 percent of the vote, said his campaign will not accept the results because they have been tallied in violation of election laws.

A U.S. election monitoring group called National Democratic Institute expressed "deep concern" Thursday over the high number of fraud complaints that have been filed.  

It said it found grounds for concern in a number of provinces, including Nuristan, Paktia, Helmand and Badghis. In these cases, many polling stations reported voter turnout that was far higher than analysts had estimated, prompting concerns about the poll's credibility.  

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has called for patience as the electoral process continues. It also called on both commissions to rigorously carry out their legal mandate to count all votes and to exclude all fraudulent ones.

The Obama administration has said that a "legitimate" election process is vital to the future of U.S.-Afghan relations.

A credible election is also deemed crucial to the reputation of the mission by 42 nations and their 100,000 troops fighting the Taliban and attempting to preserve Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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