Afghan Election Marred by Fraud, Karzai Opponent Says

Karzai's challenger says ballot stuffing, dirty tricks changed outcome.

ByABC News
August 23, 2009, 4:28 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 23, 2009— -- President Hamid Karzai's chief competitor today accused the incumbent of "widespread rigging," while the body that judges electoral complaints admitted fraud could alter the results in Afghanistan's second ever presidential election.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's former foreign minister, said his campaign has evidence of "more than 100" instances of fraud committed by Karzai's campaign, including ballot stuffing, blocking observers and stealing ballot boxes.

"Widespread rigging has taken place by the incumbent and through its campaign team and through state apparatus, through government officials," Abdullah told reporters in Kabul today. "That might have an impact on the overall outcome of the elections."

The Electoral Complaints Commission, which is backed by the United Nations, echoed Abdullah's concern, acknowledging it had received 420 complains since the polls closed on Thursday, including at least 35 that "could affect the election results," Scott Warden, an ECC member, told ABC News late today.

The allegations of fraud, combined with turnout down by as much as half from the 2004 election, could reduce the election's legitimacy and the next government's mandate. They could also dampen some of the momentum that Afghan and U.S. officials were hoping the election would create.

U.S. officials admit they are waiting for the election to determine the focus of new policies in Afghanistan, including political reconciliation with Taliban fighters. An extended election fight could bog down that goal.