Karzai ahead, but fraud claims persist

Hamid Karzai is expected in the next 48 hours to reach 50 per cent of votes cast in the Afghan elections, based on a partial count, giving him a theoretical victory in the race if the figures are reflected nationally.

However, allegations of major fraud at the polls have more than doubled in the past two days to stand at 550, and these may affect the final outcome.

Results so far, with votes counted from 35 per cent of polling stations, show President Hamid Karzai leading with 46.2 per cent, and his top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, with 31.4 per cent.

However videos showing possible fraud have been posted on the internet, and Mr Abdullah and other opposition candidates have lodged complaints about what they say was widespread cheating. These complaints, and the low turnout in the south because of Taliban threats of violence, have dealt severe blows to the credibility of the voting process.

Adding to the sense of disorganisation here have been large-scale discrepancies in the voting returns coming in from across the country. Helmand province, the centre of British operations, has returned just one ballot box so far.

Mr Karzai's chief rival, Mr Abdullah, has stated: "My concern is about massive fraud – state-crafted, state-engineered fraud – which has taken place throughout the country. This kind of thing isn't tolerated in other democratic elections, so why should it be tolerated in Afghanistan?"

Opinion polls had favoured the incumbent President, Mr Karzai to win the election, though not necessarily in a single round as his popularity has waned in recent years.

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