The UN-backed commission investigating fraud in Afghanistan's presidential election has thrown out ballots from 83 polling stations across the country, all of them in areas with strong support for President Hamid Karzai.
The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) issued its first orders today to exclude ballots from the final vote tally.
The commission threw out ballots at 51 sites in Kandahar, 27 in Ghazni and five in Paktika. All three provinces are dominated by ethnic Pashtuns and are areas where Karzai, also an ethnic Pashtun, would expect to do well.
Karzai currently has more than 50 per cent of the preliminary vote count. But if the commission throws out enough votes, he could drop below 50 per cent and be forced into a run-off.
Despite election allegations, Karzai has praised officials for carrying out the vote with "honesty and impartiality".
Complete preliminary results are expected on Saturday, a spokesman for the election commission said.