Afghan challenger accuses Karzai of vote-rigging

The chief challenger in the Afghan presidential elections has accused incumbent Hamid Karzai of being personally responsible for vote-rigging, in the most direct attack so far against his former boss.

Preliminary results are not due to be published until tomorrow, but yesterday Abdullah Abdullah, once a foreign minister under Karzai, held a press conference in the capital Kabul to |accuse his rival of fraud. “Widespread rigging has taken place by the incumbent, through his campaign team, and through the state apparatus, through government officials,” Mr Abdullah said.

“This is under his leadership that all these things are happening, and all these people who are responsible for this fraud in parts of the country are appointed by him. This should and could have been stopped by him,” he said. “The initial reports we are receiving are alarming.”

Mr Abdullah said his team had already lodged more than 100 complaints with election officials, providing detailed accounts of ballot-stuffing. He said government officials, including a police chief and a senior election official, had stuffed ballot boxes in favour of Mr Karzai at six districts in the provinces of Kandahar and Ghazni. He also claimed that monitors working on his side had been physically prevented from entering several voting sites.

The President’s campaign team dismissed the allegations as a response to defeat. “They have been saying things about fraud even before the elections took place,” said spokesman Waheed Omar. “Losing candidates often try to justify their loss in this way.”

The prospect of an electoral dispute between Mr Abdullah – whose core supporters are Tajiks from the North – and Mr Karzai – who draws the bulk of his support from the Pashtun south – has stoked fears of ethnic violence erupting, similar to the civil war years of the 1990s. However, yesterday Mr Abdullah urged his supporters to |remain calm while the country’s |Election Complaints Commission – an independent body where international officials have majority control |– investigates the cases.

The ECC said it had so far received 225 complaints of malpractice, of which 35 were categorised as “high priority” and 110 “priority”. The watchdog’s chief, Grant Kippen, said reported irregularities included “voter intimidation, violence, ballot-box tampering” as well as “interference” by some officials from the Independent Election Commission, the body set up to supervise polling.

Mr Kippen stressed that it is not yet known how many votes were involved, nor whether there was a critical mass that could affect the outcome of the election. Most of the vote-rigging claims are concentrated in the southern Pashtun belt, a must-win area for Mr Karzai where turnout was reported to be as low as 10 percent.

The Independent witnessed what appeared to be fraud at a polling|station in Nad-e-Ali, in Helmand province, where officials declared that more than 1,200 votes had been cast for Mr Karzai, despite witnesses saying only a handful of people had turned up.

President Karzai, who was installed as Afghanistan’s interim president in 2001 and went on to win the country’s first-ever presidential ballot in 2004, needs to capture more than 50 per cent of the votes to secure an outright first-round win and another five years in power. Opinion polls in the run-up to last Thursday’s vote had predicted that Mr Abdullah had a strong chance of forcing a run-off vote.

US President Barack Obama has staked his foreign policy credentials on winning the war in Afghanistan. With more than 100,000 Western troops in country, it is crucial that the elections are seen to be a legitimate expression of the will of the Afghan people.

However, some observers say this is almost impossible, given that many women were disenfranchised as there were not enough female election staff to carry out the pre-vote security checks, and that turnout in the south was very low because of the Taliban’s threat to exact revenge on anyone who voted.

Over the weekend, one monitoring group said militants had cut off the fingers of two voters in Kandahar province in the south, because they were stained with the indelible ink showing they had cast a ballot.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own