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Afghanistan electoral commission orders recount at 10 percent of polls

[JURIST] The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] in Afghanistan said Tuesday that ballots from about 10 percent of polls need to be recounted because of allegations of fraud in last month's presidential election. Canadian head of the ECC Grant Kippen said that ballots from about 2,500 polling places [AFP report] with clear and convincing evidence of fraud will be recounted. A recount could mean that President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who currently has more than 54 percent of the vote, could be forced into a runoff election if the recount gives him less than 50 percent of the vote. A spokesperson for Karzai's main rival, Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile], said that the recount was a step in the right direction but that the fraud is much more widespread [NYT report]. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that the European Union (EU) is urging a further probe [AP report] into allegations of fraud.

Last week, the ECC invalidated ballots [JURIST report] from certain polls in Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika [press releases, PDF] provinces. The ECC also ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] to conduct a partial recount [JURIST report] of votes from polling stations with high irregularities. The IEC said earlier this month that it is conducting its role faithfully and impartially [JURIST report] in an attempt to reassure the Afghan public amid allegations of voter fraud, mainly in response to the more than 100 complaints [JURIST report] filed with the ECC by Abdullah's campaign alleging ballot stuffing, inflated vote counts, and intimidation at the polls by Karzai supporters. Election observers also reported at least two instances of voters fingers, marked with indelible ink to avoid voter fraud, being cut off by Taliban insurgents [Los Angeles Times report].

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