KABUL: Afghan authorities said Monday it was too early to judge the validity of the country’s parliamentary ballot despite observers’ reports of widespread fraud in the vote that was to help consolidate its shaky democracy.
Also Monday, Britain’s military handed the US responsibility for a dangerous district in southern Afghanistan that has been the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting involving British troops for the past four years.
Despite Taliban rocket strikes and bombings, Afghans voted on Saturday for a new parliament, the first election since a fraud-tainted presidential ballot last year that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the embattled government.
The independent Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, the observer group that deployed about 7,000 observers to monitor the elections, voiced ”serious concerns” about the quality of the elections.
It said in its preliminary report published Monday that the parliamentary vote was marred by ballot-stuffing, proxy voting, underage voting, the use of fake voter identification cards and repeated voting.
The group urged President Hamid Karzai’s government to allow an independent investigation into reports of widespread electoral fraud, including intimidation of voters and interference by powerful warlords.
The state electoral commission, however, criticized observer groups and the media for being ”quick to imply the electoral process is unsuccessful based on allegations of fraud and misconduct.”
”Cases of fraud and misconduct are inevitable in the current security climate,” the commission said in a statement. But it pledged full commitment ”to working with the Electoral Complaints Commission to eliminate the effect from the final results as far as possible.”
Afghan officials have started gathering and tallying election results in a process that could last weeks if not months.
The country’s international backers praised those who voted Saturday and hoped for a democratic result.
A repeat of the pervasive fraud at the presidential election a year ago would further erode the standing of Karzai’s administration, both at home and abroad, as it struggles against a Taliban insurgency. -AP