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Afghanistan officials invalidate 1.3 million votes following fraud investigation

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] invalidated 1.3 million votes Wednesday due to findings of fraud during last month's parliamentary election [IEC backgrounder]. The ballots, constituting nearly one-fourth of the 5.6 million votes cast nationwide [AP report], were thrown out due to findings by the IEC that the 2,543 polling stations that the votes had been cast at did not follow IEC procedures following an investigation of more than 3,000 polling locations where fraud was alleged to have occurred. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] is also currently investigating 224 parliamentary candidates [BBC report] who have been accused of involvement in voter fraud. If they are found to have had a direct role in the fraud, they may be disqualified from holding office by the ECC. Additionally, the ECC is investigating more than 4,000 formal complaints. The election was held last month after being postponed by four months [BBC report] due to logistical and security concerns, and was contested by 2,500 candidates competing for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Preliminary results [results] released by the IEC have shown that around half of incumbent members of parliament were replaced by challengers.

Following the disputed 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], the ECC invalidated results from 210 polling stations [JURIST report]. The ECC found clear and convincing evidence of fraud and also ordered the IEC to invalidate a percentage of votes from both candidates. In April, Karzai blamed foreign officials for the extensive irregularities [JURIST report] that occurred during the presidential election. Though admitting that fraud was widespread, Karzai accused UN and EU representatives of attempting to influence vote counts. In November 2009, Karzai was declared the winner of the election [JURIST report] after challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] withdrew from the runoff election due to his belief that a free and fair vote was impossible.

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