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Afghan polls rigged: Abdullah

world Updated: Aug 23, 2009 23:27 IST

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President Hamid Karzai's leading challenger accused him of using the Afghan state to "rig" this week's election and detailed allegations of cheating by government officials.

Abdullah Abdullah, once Karzai's foreign minister, said yesterday he was in contact with other campaigns to explore the possibility of a coalition candidacy in case none of the 36 candidates won enough votes in last Thursday's ballot to avoid a runoff, probably in October.

The accusations, which Karzai's spokesman denied, are the most direct Abdullah has made against the incumbent in a contest that likely has weeks to go before a winner is proclaimed. Both Abdullah and Karzai claim they are in the lead based on reports from campaign pollwatchers monitoring the count.

Officials of Abdullah's campaign have alleged fraud in several southern provinces where the insurgency is strongest and Karzai had been expected to run strong.

“He uses the state apparatus in order to rig an election,” Abdullah said in an interview with AP. "That is something which is not expected." Abdullah said it "doesn't make the slightest difference" whether Karzai or his supporters ordered the alleged fraud.

225 complaints of irregularities filed

Around 225 allegations of irregularities in Afghanistan's elections have been lodged with a complaints investigator, some of which could affect the results, the body said on Sunday.

The charges include tampering with ballot boxes for Thursday's presidential and provincial council elections, as well as intimidation of voters, Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) chairman Grant Kippen told reporters.

Others related to violence, failures of supposedly indelible ink meant to prevent people from voting twice and interference in polling, he said. "As of close of business yesterday the ECC had received approximately 225 complaints. And these are complaints on and since election day," Kippen said.

Some contained multiple allegations, he said, adding that more complaints could be received by the ECC, which is an independent Afghan organisation. "Thirty five have been assigned a high priority and these are ones that we had to deem to be material to the outcome of the election results," he said. Preliminary results from the presidential vote, only the second in the history of Afghanistan, are expected in coming days but will be subject to ECC investigations.

“We are aware of significant complaints of voting irregularities in provinces that were affected by violence on polling day," Kippen said, adding that these included the southern province of Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold.

Kippen said the election results would only be certified once complaints had been adjudicated. The ECC is the independent body established under Afghan law to adjudicate all challenges and complaints related to elections. AFP