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Afghanistan to unveil final results from fraud-marred vote

world Updated: Nov 25, 2010 10:10 IST
AFP
afghanistan polls

Afghanistan is to release final results on Wednesday of a September parliamentary election after a fraud probe threw out nearly a quarter of votes and disqualified many early winners.

Afghans voted on September 18 in their second parliamentary poll since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001, but certified results have taken more than two months to compile because of investigations into widespread fraud.

The election announcement is due at 10:30 am (0600 GMT), a day after the Pentagon admitted in a report that progress has been "uneven" in the nine-year war, with violence in Afghanistan now at an all-time high.

Election authorities have already invalidated about 1.3 million of the 5.6 million votes cast and disqualified 19 candidates -- among them a cousin of President Hamid Karzai -- who were declared winners in preliminary results.

The candidates were disqualified after the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) investigated widespread claims of irregularities that tarnished the poll for the 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Western allies had hoped the September election would be an improvement on the fraud-tarnished 2009 presidential vote which cast a long pall over Karzai's return to power and his pledge to wipe out widespread corruption.

An election official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that some of the candidates stripped of victory in the September vote were allies of Karzai and included a first cousin of the president.

Losing candidates have staged a number of protests across the country, accusing electoral officials of taking bribes and victorious rivals of stuffing ballot boxes.

The ECC received more than 5,000 complaints of fraud in the wake of the poll. Of those, 2,500 complaints were classed as "serious".

Further controversy over the election was caused by the preliminary results, which showed that Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group and the war-torn country's traditional rulers, lost their majority in parliament.

Pashtun leaders say the Taliban insurgency, centred largely in the Pashtun-dominated south and east, prevented them from voting.

The Pentagon report said Afghan violence was at an all-time high as US-led NATO forces try to roll back the Taliban from cities and towns, with combat incidents up 300 percent since since 2007 and 70 percent since last year.

The cautious tone of the report offered a contrast to more upbeat public declarations from top officials and military leaders, who have touted encouraging signs and said the US military has gained the initiative on the battlefield.

"Progress across the country remains uneven, with modest gains in security, governance, and development in operational priority areas," according to the report issued to Congress.

NATO leaders last week endorsed a plan to start handing Afghan forces command of the war next year, with the aim of ceding full control by 2014. The United States and NATO currently have around 143,000 troops in Afghanistan.