Afghanistan rejects UN advice on run-off vote
Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 5:39 AM ET
The Associated Press
Afghan election officials said Thursday that there will be more voting centres for next week's presidential run-off than in the fraud-tainted first-round vote in August, rejecting United Nations recommendations to eliminate sites to prevent cheating.
The Aug. 20 presidential poll was so tainted by widespread ballot-box stuffing and distorted ballot tallies that fraud investigators threw out more than a million votes, enough to force President Hamid Karzai into a second round against his top challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Observers and UN advisers attributed much of the fraud to so-called ghost polling stations that never opened but returned results or to stations that opened in areas without enough oversight to ensure a fair balloting.
Despite this, the Independent Election Commission plans to open 6,322 voting centres on Nov. 7, election official Zekria Barakzai said. That's well above the 6,167 centres that opened in the first round.
The UN had recommended that only 5,817 voting centres open and those in charge of logistics had said in recent days that they were planning for the smaller number.
The decision to open more centres is likely to raise more suspicions about an already beleaguered election commission.
Abdullah calls for resignation
Abdullah has accused the election commission of being complicit in the fraud and called for the resignation of chairman Azizullah Lodin to ensure a fair run-off.
Lodin had said previously that he hoped to open just as many voting sites as in the first round and that security officials had given assurances that they could do so safely. But many internally had continued to push for a lower number.
Barakzai said that Afghan and international forces had said they could provide security for as many as 6,600 voting centres and that the election officials had decided to cut that by almost 300 because of concerns about fraud.
As was the case in August, the entire country will participate in the vote, but this time only Karzai and Abdullah are candidates.
However, 11 districts over five provinces will not be able to participate in the election because of security concerns or weather, Barakzai said. In provinces like Ghazni and Nuristan, safety is an issue. In northern Badakhshan province, snows have already cut off some areas, he said. In the first round, there were eight districts that were kept out, he said.