Observer group alleges widespread fraud in Afghan polls

Allegations of fraud could undermine the legitimacy of the elections.

Kabul: The largest Afghan election observer group said on Monday that fraud, electoral violations and irregularities were widely recorded during the country`s Parliamentary Elections.

"Fraud took many forms," Nader Naderi, chairman of Free and Fair Election Foundations of Afghanistan (FEFA), said.

FEFA deployed around 7,000 observers to 34 provinces to monitor Saturday`s Parliamentary Elections, the second since the ouster of Taliban regime in late 2001.

The team recorded ballot-stuffing at 280 polling stations, Naderi said, adding that underage voting was registered in 1,259 sites, proxy voting in 390 centres and repeat voting at 1,228 stations.

A total of 5,355 polling sites were opened on Saturday, but due to security constraints more than 300 others scheduled to open remained shut.

There were conflicting reports about the number of attacks conducted by the Taliban. FEFA reported 276 incidents, while government officials put the number at 305 and NATO said there were more than 400 attacks.

Officials said the militants failed to derail the process. A total of 21 civilians, three election workers and eight soldiers died.

More than four million people cast ballots among 2,500 candidates vying for 249 seats in lower house of Parliament. The turnout was 40 percent of registered voters, the Independent Election Commission said.

Allegations of fraud could undermine the legitimacy of the elections, which cost USD 150 million.

The vote is seen as a test for President Hamid Karzai, who himself was elected in a fraud-marred polls last year.

Prior to the elections, observers and many candidates had expressed concerns about interference of Karzai`s allies in the vote.

Naderi said his team registered violations and intimidation by regional politicians. "Powerbrokers and their supporters carried out 157 serious of acts of violence in 28 provinces."

The group said it "has serious concerns about the quality of the elections", and urged the government, election authorities and the international community to assist a UN-backed Election Complaint Commission to investigate fraud and coercion.

Final official results were expected around the end of October, but preliminary results could be declared early next month.