Kabul, Afghanistan — The main Afghan election observer group said it had serious concerns about the legitimacy of this weekend’s parliamentary vote because of reported fraud, even as President Hamid Karzai commended the balloting as a solid success.
The conflicting statements underscored the difficulty of determining the credibility of the vote also hit by militant attacks that hurt the turnout. Afghan officials started gathering and tallying results Sunday in a process that could last weeks if not months.
The country’s international backers praised those who voted Saturday despite bomb and rocket attacks and voiced hoped for a democratic result. A repeat of the pervasive fraud that tainted a presidential election a year ago would only erode further the standing of Karzai administration — both at home and abroad — as it struggles against a Taliban insurgency.
While the first vote counts are due to be made public in a few days time, full preliminary results are not expected until early October, and then there will be weeks of fraud investigations before winners are officially announced for the 249 parliamentary seats, which were contested by about 2,500 candidates.
The election commission has said it hopes to release final results by the end of October. But there are likely to be a host of fraud complaints in each province — which could drag the process beyond that target date. The resolution of last year’s vote took months.
On Sunday, the independent Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan said it “has serious concerns about the quality of elections,” given the insecurity and numerous complaints of fraud. FEFA deployed about 7,000 people around the country, making it the largest observer of the parliamentary vote. Many international observer groups scaled back their operations from last year because of security concerns.
At least 21 civilians and nine police officers were killed during the voting, according to the election commission and the Interior Ministry, amid dozens of bombings and rocket attacks. In addition, two poll workers were kidnapped in northern Balkh province and their bodies were discovered Sunday, Afghan election commission chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi told reporters.