Afghanistan's election commission threw out 1.3 million fraudulent votes from last month's parliamentary elections, about a quarter of all ballots cast and roughly the same amount as invalidated in last year's presidential election, election officials said on Wednesday.
In announcing the preliminary election results, the chairman of the Independent Election Commission said that 5.6 million votes were cast but only 4.3 million were deemed valid after about a month of investigating the results with audits and recounts. Commission chairman Fazil Ahmad Manawi said 224 parliamentary candidates, as well as an unspecified number of election officials, have been accused of fraud; their cases will be investigated by a separate complaints commission.
Despite the widespread irregularities, Manawi and other Afghan election officials described the election as a success, given that it was held amid a growing Taliban insurgency that made it difficult for many voters to reach the polls.
Abdullah Ahmadzai, another member of the election commission, said that he considered the vote successful because the commission this year had better mechanisms in place to detect the fraud. Last year's Afghan presidential election were believed to be fraught with widespread fraud.
Some parliamentary candidates on Wednesday criticised the process of invalidating votes, saying they believed the discarded ballot boxes took votes away from more than just the candidates who perpetrated fraud.
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