Afghan candidates, lawmakers in new poll protest

No results have been declared nearly 7 weeks after Afghan Parliamentary polls.

Kabul: Scores of disgruntled lawmakers and candidates in Afghanistan`s Parliamentary Election, marred by allegations of fraud, renewed protests on Sunday over the September poll and called for a fresh vote.

No results have been declared nearly seven weeks after the election. The protests are another sign of political instability in Afghanistan, already facing a growing Taliban-led insurgency.

Joined by hundreds of supporters, the candidates and members of Parliament who had sought re-election denounced the election as illegal.

"We condemn the September 18 election and call it as illegal and ask the government to hold another election," read a banner as protesters marched past the palace of President Hamid Karzai and UN headquarters.

The ballot for the lower house of Parliament went ahead despite a Taliban threat to disrupt it. Nearly a quarter of the votes have already been disqualified by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Allegations of fraud have also been levelled against the IEC itself, including senior members in the commission. Two weeks after the election, the IEC said its provincial election chief in the eastern province of Khost had been arrested over fraud complaints.

The lawmakers and candidates accuse IEC officials of taking bribes from winning candidates and having their own votes unfairly tossed out.

A deputy attorney general said last week a fraud investigation had been launched into officials at the IEC following allegations from candidates. The investigation is expected to last several weeks.

The credibility of the vote will weigh heavily when US President Barack Obama reviews his Afghanistan strategy in December amid rising violence and sagging public support.

It will also likely be discussed at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Lisbon this month.

Several of Karzai`s ministries are being run by caretakers after Parliament rejected numerous nominations this year. Karzai will not be able to put new nominations forward until a new Parliament is formed.

Final results were due at the end of October. They have been pushed back by at least several weeks while a UN-backed watchdog sifts through the thousands of complaints.

Western nations have been wary of following Afghan officials in dubbing the election a success after last year`s fraud-marred presidential ballot. The top UN envoy in Afghanistan said last month "considerable fraud" had taken place.

Bureau Report

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