KABUL (Reuters) - Every single voter in the village of Torzai in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province backed incumbent Hamid Karzai for president, official results showed, and at four of its eight polling stations, he received exactly 500 votes.
The election commission has so far published only partial results of the August 20 vote, and says it has excluded ballots where it suspects fraud. Yet results on its Web site already include a remarkable number of figures that end in zeros.
Karzai’s main opponent Abdullah Abdullah says that is ironclad proof of fraud on a massive scale.
Abdullah’s aides passed out lists on Saturday of more than 100 polling centers where they said a check of the official results online would show numbers that appear bogus.
“This is the blatant violation of the procedure and I think it is stealing in daylight,” said Abdullah, who has shown signs of becoming increasingly exasperated since the August 20 vote.
At one polling station in a school in the Zerok district of Paktika province, exactly 400 votes were cast, all for Karzai.
At a mosque in Kandahar’s Sayed Bosa village, Karzai received all 4,085 votes cast. Of the mosque’s eight polling stations, two reported Karzai with exactly 500 votes, two with 510, three with 520 and one with 515.
These and other round numbers pop out of tables published on the election commission's websitehere.
Allegations of fraud have held up official results from the election, now more than two weeks old, and threaten to wreck confidence in a vote that had been a centerpiece of U.S. President Barack Obama’s regional strategy.
Western officials initially hailed the election, which Taliban fighters failed to scupper with violence. But as reports of fraud mount, those assessments have become more guarded.
So far, the election commission has published results of only about 60 percent of polling stations, saying it has excluded ballots where it suspects fraud.
That so many round numbers have nevertheless slipped through “shows the extent of the fraud, which again unfortunately shows not only the government of Afghanistan has engineered it, but it has been co-engineered by the IEC as well,” Abdullah said.
IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said the election commission stood by the numbers on its Web site and referred complaints to a separate Electoral Complaints Commission, known as the ECC.
Karzai’s staff were not available for comment.
The partial results so far show Karzai leading but falling just short the outright majority needed to win in a single round.
Most of the ballots have yet to be counted in the south, heartland of Karzai’s support base and also the part of the country where Abdullah says most fraud took place.
The remaining southern results could swing the election for Karzai in a single round, but Abdullah says he will reject the outcome if fraudulent results are not excluded.
Western officials say fraud can still be corrected by the complaint commission, which is led by a Canadian and has the authority to set aside ballots it suspects were stuffed.
The watchdog says it is probing more than 2,000 complaints, including more than 600 serious enough to affect the results.
“This underlines the importance of the ECC’s work. They must be allowed to complete the process so they can ensure the integrity of these polls,” said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the U.N. mission which appointed three of the ECC’s five members.
Editing by Jon Hemming
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