Friday, September 24, 2010
Widespread Fraud Seen in Latest Afghan Elections - NYTimes.com
KABUL, Afghanistan — Evidence is mounting that fraud in last weekend’s parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, calling into question the credibility of a vote that was an important test of the American and Afghan effort to build a stable and legitimate government.
The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates’ agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers.
In some places, election officials themselves are alleged to have carried out the fraud; in others, government employees did, witnesses said. One video showed election officials and a candidate’s representatives haggling over the price of votes.
Many of the complaints have come from candidates and election officials, but were supported by Afghan and international election observers and diplomats. The fraud appeared to cut both for and against the government of President Hamid Karzai, much of it benefiting sometimes unsavory local power brokers.
But in the important southern province of Kandahar, where election officials threw out 76 percent of the ballots in last year’s badly tainted presidential election, candidates accused the president’s influential half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of drawing up a list of winners even before the Sept. 18 election for Parliament was carried out.
“From an overall democracy-building perspective it does not look rosy,” said one diplomat who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The widespread tampering and bare-knuckle tactics of some candidates raised serious questions about the effort to build a credible government that can draw the support of Afghans and the Obama administration and its NATO partners as they re-evaluate their commitment to the war.