Afghanistan announces final election results

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

KABUL - Afghan election officials Wednesday issued the long-delayed final results of the Sep 18 parliamentary elections, which were marred by widespread fraud.

More than 1.3 million votes, nearly one-quarter of total ballots cast, were ruled invalid by the election commission.

“With all the shortcomings it was a major success for us, the Afghan government, people of Afghanistan and our international friends,” Fazel Ahmad Manawi, chairman of the Independent Election Commission, said.

The results covered 33 of 34 provinces, and 10 seats set aside for Kuchi nomads.

Officials expressed concern over the results from the southern province of Ghazni, where Pashtuns failed to gain any of the 11 seats despite making up half the population. Several of the province’s regions did not hold ballots following security threats.

The confirmed results for Ghazni were withheld Wednesday as authorities were to decide whether to hold a fresh ballot there, or find another way to ensure better representation for the province’s Pashtuns, nationally the dominant ethnic group.

Across the country, more than two dozen preliminary winners, among them a cousin of President Hamid Karzai, were disqualified. Manawi also said 1,153 polling sites were disqualified due to irregularities.

A UN-backed commission examining allegations of fraud had received more than 6,000 complaints from observers, voters and candidates.

More than 2,500 candidates, including over 400 women, vied for 249 seats in the lower house, known as Wolesi Jirga. Sixty-nine women candidates won seats in the lower house, one more than the quota guaranteed by the constitution for women.

For Karzai, the lower house is vital because it has the authority to question his policies, approve or reject his cabinet nominations, and vote on laws proposed by the executive.

But the makeup of the legislature was unclear, as Afghanistan has little experience with democracy and does not have party organisations with declared policy agendas. Most candidates ran as individuals, and much voting was along tribal lines.

The scale of the fraud rivalled that of last year’s presidential election, where one-third of votes for the incumbent Karzai were declared void.

Around 100 lawmakers, candidates and their supporters took to the streets of Kabul Wednesday, accusing election officials of fraud and calling on the Attorney General’s office to scrap the results.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura welcomed the announcement of the results, saying “the formation of a new parliament would be a major step in Afghanistan’s path to improving its democratic governance and the capacity of Afghan institutions to deliver services to the Afghan people”.

Western nations with 150,000 troops in Afghanistan are carefully watching the process to see if Karzai is committed to reforming his government, and his tarnished reputation.

Filed under: Politics

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