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Turnout and fraud weigh on Afghan poll

world Updated: Sep 20, 2010 01:28 IST

The top United Nations diplomat in Afghanistan said on Sunday it was too early to describe a parliamentary election as a success, with an expected 4,000 complaints to be heard and turnout figures not yet established.

Afghan election officials declared Saturday’s result a success despite widespread reports of fraud, worryingly low voter turnout and attacks across the country that killed at least 17 people after the Taliban vowed to disrupt the poll.

“I think that that is premature, with all due respect,” Staffan de Mistura, special representative for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Reuters in an interview.

“They have done a great job ... But I would wait to talk about success,” he said in Kabul.

Election officials pored over votes on Sunday but there will be a long wait before even preliminary results are declared, with ballots still to come in from remote areas and thousands of complaints expected from unsuccessful candidates. The election was being closely watched in Washington ahead of US President Barack Obama’s planned war strategy review in December, which will likely examine the pace and scale of U.S. troop withdrawals after nine years of war.

A flawed poll would weigh on Obama when his administration faces mid-term Congressional elections in November amid sagging public support for the war, with violence at its worst since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

Some areas have started sending checked ballot boxes back to Kabul, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told Reuters, but early signs were that almost a million fewer votes were cast than in a flawed 2009 presidential poll.

The IEC said on Saturday the number of Afghans who cast ballots was about 3.6 million, although de Mistura said the final figure would likely be around 4 million.

The IEC has said there were 11.4 million voters but de Mistura said that the real number of eligible voters was probably closer to 10.5 million.


6 children dead in blast

Kunduz:
At least six children were killed when a rocket exploded in a village on Sunday in northern Kunduz province, a provincial official and the Afghan interior ministry said.

The incident happened in Ali Abad district of Kunduz, which took the brunt of attacks by the Taliban insurgents on Saturday.

Habibullah Mohtashim, the district chief of Ali Abad, said eight children were killed while playing with a rocket round left lying on the ground.