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UN-backed Afghanistan electoral commission invalidates ballots

[JURIST] The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] on Thursday invalidated ballots from last month's presidential election from certain polls in Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika [press releases, PDF] provinces. The ECC found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" at 51 polling stations in Kandahar, 27 polling stations in Ghazni, and five polling stations in Paktika, including "unfolded ballots, votes for candidates inserted inside bundles for other candidates, miscounted ballots, missing material, uniformity of markings, seal numbers which did not match numbers on the record of seals and lists of voters with numerous fictitious card numbers." Ballots were invalidated from both presidential and provincial council races, and no repeat vote will be conducted [AFP report]. The ECC also ordered a recount of ballots from several other polling stations. Meanwhile, preliminary results appear to name President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] the winner with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Earlier this week, the ECC 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 Saturday 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 complaints by Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile], who was the central challenger to Karzai. The IEC previously announced that it had invalidated [AP report] the results of 447 polling stations because of claims of fraud, but retracted on Monday alleging lack of authority to exclude such ballots. Abdullah's campaign filed more than 100 complaints [JURIST report] with the ECC 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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