KABUL (Reuters) - Disgruntled lawmakers, candidates and their supporters called for Afghanistan’s parliamentary election to be scrapped on Tuesday, with no results declared more than six weeks after the poll amid major fraud concerns.
About 150 protesters took to the streets in the capital, Kabul, describing the September 18 election as illegal and undemocratic. The demonstrators, including several prominent MPs, marched past one of the gates to President Hamid Karzai’s palace.
“This election was full of fraud. We should hold another election this time next year,” said Najla Anjila, a female candidate from Kabul.
Many others agreed. “This election was unlawful and we do not accept it. We urge President Karzai to annul this fraudulent election,” one protester shouted through a loudspeaker.
The ballot for the lower house of parliament, or wolesi jirga, went ahead despite a Taliban threat to disrupt it but already close to a quarter of the votes have been disqualified by the country’s election commission.
“Some members of the government, members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) were involved in the fraud. It is against the constitution of Afghanistan and we call this election ... completely illegal,” said candidate Muheen Marastial.
The credibility of the vote will weigh heavily when U.S. President Barack Obama reviews his Afghanistan war strategy in December amid rising violence and sagging public support. It will also likely be discussed at a NATO summit in Lisbon this month.
While thousands of formal and informal complaints have been pouring in about the election since polling day, there had until Tuesday been few calls for the ballot to be held again.
“ELECTION OFFICIALS BRIBED”
Final results were due at the end October but have been pushed back by at least several weeks while a U.N.-backed watchdog sifts through the thousands of complaints.
Western nations have been wary of following Afghan officials in dubbing the election a success after the fiasco of last year’s fraud-marred presidential ballot. The top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan said last month “considerable fraud” had taken place.
But Daoud Sultanzoy, a popular MP from Ghazni, a volatile province southwest of the capital, said Western donors had so far offered only a muted reaction because they were keen to put the election behind them.
“This is very dangerous and it will come back to haunt them,” Sultanzoy told Reuters.
Sultanzoy, who according to preliminary results will not be re-elected, accused election commission officials of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from winning candidates and said most of his votes had been disqualified unfairly.
The IEC, which was also accused of fraud in last year’s presidential poll, was given more powers this year, including the ability to disqualify votes on its own.
The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is not allowed to investigate or adjudicate on ballots already thrown out by the IEC, including ballots over which complaints have been lodged. On Tuesday it said it had received more than 6,000 complaints, about 2,000 of which could affect the outcome.
Around 40 percent of complaints received relate to polling irregularities and some 17 percent to violence and intimidation.
The ECC threw out more than a third of ballots cast for Karzai in last year’s presidential poll as fake.
Editing by Paul Tait and Alex Richardson
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.