Recount could change Afghan result

A partial recount ordered to prevent fraud in last month's Afghan presidential election will cover more than 10 per cent of polling stations, the head of a UN-backed watchdog said. Yesterday's announcement means that enough votes are likely to be subjected to the fraud inquiry to potentially alter the outcome, prolonging uncertainty over the result for weeks or months.

The main opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah said that, if a result is delayed into next year, he would favour a transitional government led by neither himself nor President Hamid Karzai. He said he was discussing Afghanistan's political future with Western officials, but he was not talking about forming a coalition with Mr Karzai to end the stand-off.

Grant Kippen, the Canadian, UN-appointed head of the Electoral Complaints Commission, which has the power to veto the election result, said 2,516 polling stations were subject to a recount order. Election authorities say a total of 24,630 polling stations opened for the August poll. The ECC has ordered a recount at stations where a candidate received 95 per cent, or where more than the expected maximum of 600 votes were cast.

Mr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, says ballot stuffing took place on a large scale, especially in southern areas where the reported result overwhelmingly favours Mr Karzai. Under near-complete preliminary results issued so far, the incumbent has a majority of 54.3 per cent. Based on these tallies, nearly 500,000 votes for Mr Karzai – or 9 per cent of the total valid votes cast – would have to be discarded to force a second round.

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