EU monitors say a third of Karzai votes are suspect

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Kabul, Sep.17 (ANI): European Union monitors believe that about one-third of the votes cast for President Hamid Karzai in the Aug. 20 election are suspicious and should be examined for fraud.

In a news conference just hours before the pre-audited results were released, the European Union monitors said they believed that the tally included 1.5 million suspicious ballots, or more than one of every four votes cast.

Dimitra Ioannou, one of the union's election monitors, said 1.1 million suspicious votes belonged to Karzai and 300,000 to Abdullah.

European officials emphasized that those numbers did not necessarily represent fraudulent votes, but votes that needed to be investigated.

Karzai, who is vying for a second five-year term, won 54.6 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff election, according to the tally released by the country's national election commission. His closest challenger, the former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, won 27.8 percent.

The country's United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission has ordered recounts and forensic examinations of ballot boxes in 10 percent of polling places.

That would involve at least 15 percent, and possibly a far higher proportion, of reported votes. The complaints commission, led by a Canadian, is the ultimate arbiter of election results.

Some Western officials say that if all fraudulent ballots were discarded, Karzai's tally would drop below 50 percent, forcing him into a runoff against Abdullah.

There are growing fears among United States and European officials that the fraud and a drawn-out recount or runoff risks derailing American and NATO efforts to stabilize the country by hurting the Afghan government's already low credibility among its people.

Evidence of widespread electoral fraud has further dimmed support for the war against the Taliban.

Karzai's campaign has lashed out against the announcement as "partial and irresponsible," setting the Afghan leader against representatives of countries his government depends on for military and financial support against a raging insurgency that controls much of the countryside. (ANI)

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