KABUL (Reuters) - More than 4,000 formal complaints have been submitted about Afghanistan’s parliamentary poll, the election watchdog said on Sunday, with more than half of those able to affect the final results.
Ahmad Zia Rafat, a commissioner on the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said 175 candidates out of a total of around 2,500 had been accused of fraud.
Afghanistan’s September 18 poll went ahead despite a Taliban threat to disrupt the vote, but Western nations have been wary of dubbing the election a success after the fiasco of last year’s fraud-marred presidential ballot.
The credibility of the Afghan vote will weigh heavily on U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of mid-term Congressional elections next month and as his administration prepares for a review of its Afghan policy amid sagging public support for the war.
“Out of those candidates accused of fraud, 25 are current members of parliament,” Rafat said. “If the accusations of fraud against the candidates are proven, their votes will be nullified and they will be presented to the courts.”
As of Saturday, a total of 4,169 complaints had been lodged with the ECC, Rafat said, adding around 55 percent of those were categorized serious enough to be able to affect the final outcome if upheld by the commission.
More than 40 percent of complaints received relate to polling irregularities, the ECC said, and some 17 percent to violence or intimidation. Other complaints include problems in accessing polling sites and counting irregularities.
Preliminary results were due to be released last Saturday but the election body last week pushed that date back until mid-October to allow more time for verifications and recounts amid the fraud allegations.
The government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC) says it has nullified part or all of the votes from 442 polling centers and has ordered an audit and recount of votes from 828 polling centers.
Out of around 6,800 polling centers slated to open on election day, more than 1,500 remained closed due to poor security.
At least 17 people died in election day violence, though no major attacks hit the parliamentary election.
Most Afghans are sensitive to fraud after President Hamid Karzai’s re-election in 2009 was tainted by widespread graft that has undermined his credibility at home and abroad. More than a third of his votes were tossed out by the ECC last year.
Violence in Afghanistan is also at its highest levels since the start of the war in late 2001 with rising foreign troop and civilian casualties.
Obama last year ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to try and stem a resurgent Taliban but the president has said he will start to withdraw combat troops next year.