Afghan Elections Update – Irregularities & Taliban Interference
Well the elections (and my birthday) came and went without any major upheaval. Though voter turnout was low due to fear of increased violence, the Taliban failed to derail the elections all together and they were carried out. Whether they were carried out “freely and fairly” is another question. Several allegations have been made that there were considerable irregularities. According to Jon Boone for the Guardian, a UN official claims that fraud may have affected one in five ballots, that’s 20%:
Concerns were mounting that electoral fraud in the south and east of the country, where few election monitors dared to tread, could help push the number of votes cast for the president, Hamid Karzai, over 50%, handing him victory without the need for a second-round contest. Partial results are expected to be announced later.One UN official predicted that anywhere between 10% and 20% of the votes cast were illegal, and that negotiations would have to be made to “massage down” Karzai’s victory margin. Independent election monitors said almost 700 complaints had been received, around 50 of which were earmarked for immediate investigation because of the risk they could change the outcome.
And here’s the kicker: even if this U.N. official is right, even if 20% of the ballots are illegal, it won’t matter. Karzai has about 3 million votes right now, according to the New York Times, out of 4.5 million that have been counted (90% of the total). He would still lead the field after a 20% “massage” — his nearest challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, has 1.5 million votes.
He would be perilously close to the 50 percent threshold for a runoff vote, but with 500,000 ballots left to count, he would probably pick up enough votes to propel him over that mark.
Al Jazeera also seems to have some interesting footage of voter abductions in the wake of the elections. Supposedly a Taliban checkpoint sprang up along Afghanistan’s main highway (the fact that they were able to do this belies the ongoing state of insecurity in Afghanistan) manned by the Taliban. At this checkpoint, people passing through were having their fingers checked for ink, to see if they’ve voted, and then accused of “standing in line with the Jews” and marched off blindfolded to some location. I must say though, good job by the cameraman to capture this footage, see it below:
All in all, unless more information comes in to change things, it appears Karzai has this in the bag. It’s unlikely that any irregularities will cause protests of the calibre that occurred in the far more politically charged Iran after the June 12th election.