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Afghanistan runoff set after UN-backed election commission rejects votes

[JURIST] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] on Tuesday agreed to a runoff election against challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] after the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] announced [press release, PDF] Monday that it had invalidated [ECC materials] election results from 210 polling stations in Afghanistan's disputed August presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The EEC found clear and convincing evidence of fraud and also ordered Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] to invalidate a percentage of votes from both candidates based on the EEC's September 8 recount order [JURIST report]. Additionally, the EEC held that the results 18 polling stations, which had been under quarantine by the IEC, could be counted because it did not find clear and convincing evidence of voter fraud. According to an estimate by the US election monitoring group Democracy International [official website], the EEC order reduces [press release] Karzai's vote totals to 48.3 percent from 55 percent as previously reported [BBC report], forcing a runoff election because no candidate received at least 50 percent of the votes. The group also estimated the order will raise Abdullah's totals to 31.5 percent from 28 percent. The runoff election is set for November 7 [NYT report].

Last week, one of the two Afghans on the ECC resigned [JURIST report], citing "foreign interference." Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai's resignation raised doubt about the commission's work and generated allegations that the resignation was influenced by Karzai - allegations that have been refuted by Karzai's campaign. The ECC had released a statement [text, PDF] expressing its disappointment over Barakzai's resignation. According to Rule of Procedure 2.4 [text, PDF], the panel only needs a quorum of three people, including one Afghan in order to meet and issue rulings. In addition to the two Afghans on the panel, the five-member panel consists of one American, one Canadian, and one Dutch national.

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