SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A new report by European Union election observers on Tuesday supports some of the most stark estimates of systematic electoral fraud in the Afghan presidential runoff election in June, and says an earlier audit of the voting invalidated only a small fraction of suspect votes.
The report provides the fullest picture yet of the allegations of fraud that plagued the election, suggesting that more than two million votes — or about a quarter of total votes cast — came from polling stations with voting irregularities. Reports of widespread fraud led to a political crisis pitting the two campaigns, of Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, against each other after the preliminary results tilted sharply in favor of Mr. Ghani.
The standoff led Secretary of State John Kerry to help broker a power-sharing deal in which Mr. Ghani was named president and Mr. Abdullah was named the government’s chief executive. That nominal arrangement has held, but the two camps have struggled over the precise division of powers, and so far have not been able to come to agreement on a cabinet, nearly three months after the inauguration.
Wary of upsetting this tenuous balance, the European Union’s chief observer for the Afghan election, Thijs Berman, sought to strike a conciliatory tone at a news conference on Tuesday in which he discussed the new election report. Mr. Berman praised both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah for their “statesmanlike restraint,” calling the power-sharing agreement “the best way to respect the will of Afghan voters” under the circumstances. But of the election, Mr. Berman noted that “one can sadly be sure that a lot went wrong in many places.”
The report from Mr. Berman’s election assessment team does not provide a figure for how many votes it believes to be invalid, but it does point to a number of irregular voting patterns that raise doubts about more than two million votes. It notes that millions of votes came from stations with unexpectedly high turnouts or where the votes were cast almost uniformly in favor of one candidate — both of which are “extremely unlikely and an indication of possible fraud,” Mr. Berman said.
In the runoff, 2.06 million of the votes cast, or some 26 percent of the total, came from polling stations in which turnout was reported to have reached or exceeded 99 percent of the predicted turnout of 600 voters per polling station.
While Afghanistan has not conducted a census in more than 30 years and has only a sketchy sense of its population figures, those statistics were cause for concern, Mr. Berman said. Furthermore, the unexpectedly high turnout reports often happened in provinces far from the country’s main population centers where anecdotal accounts by residents suggested that the actual turnout was extremely sparse, given Taliban threats.
The report cites another voting irregularity: More than 2.3 million votes during the runoff came from polling sites in which more than 95 percent of the votes went to one candidate. Of those, 378,281 votes, or 5 percent of the total, came from polling stations that reported that 100 percent of the votes went just one way.
“You never see that,” Mr. Berman said in an interview. “That is a North Korea situation.”
Mr. Berman said that even in centers where fraud was likely, many votes were probably legitimate. “When you throw them in the dustbin there is the question of how far you disenfranchise legitimate votes,” he said.
Source: NY Times