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Originally published September 21, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Page modified September 22, 2010 at 6:32 AM

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Afghan election panel finds evidence of serious fraud

Internal reports from Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission on Tuesday provide new evidence of serious fraud in ...

McClatchy Newspapers

KABUL, Afghanistan — Internal reports from Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission on Tuesday provide new evidence of serious fraud in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, including turnouts that exceeded 100 percent in many southeastern districts under the control of the Taliban or other militants.

One district in Paktika province recorded 626 percent voter turnout, according to reports obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.

The new indications of fraud appear to strengthen allegations of widespread intimidation, vote rigging and violence that independent Afghan poll monitors began making almost immediately after the polls closed on Saturday, and cast new doubts on the commission's assertion that it knew of no instances in which commission staff members stuffed ballots.

An independent analysis, meanwhile, estimated that the number of violent incidents during Saturday's contests for parliament's 249-seat lower house was higher than it was for last year's fraud-marred presidential election.

The new data on violence and turnout could make it harder for the Obama administration and the international community to portray Afghanistan's second parliamentary polls since 2001 as a step forward in consolidating the country's shaky democracy and containing the Taliban and allied insurgents.

Indicum Consulting, a Kabul-based private security analysis firm, estimated that there were as many as 600 insurgent attacks on Saturday, compared to about 450 in the 2009 presidential contest.

"The amount of violence on polling day, especially early morning, was clearly higher this year than during the presidential election, and threats and attacks closed down a fairly huge amount of polling centers," said Sami Kovanen, Indicum's senior information analyst.

The commission polling reports document district-by-district breakdowns of voter turnouts in Paktika, Paktia, Zabul and Ghazni provinces in Saturday's contests for parliament's lower house, the Wolesi Jirga.

The reports put the total turnout for the races for the five lower house seats from Paktia at 111.37 percent, with six of 10 districts reporting attendance that exceeded 100 percent and one reporting precisely 100 percent, a glaring indication of fraud.

In Paktika, where the total turnout in the contests for four seats reportedly was 69.09 percent, three of five districts recorded turnouts greater than 100 percent. One of the districts, Warmamai, had 626 percent turnout.

The only way that so many votes could have been cast in such insecure circumstances, several experts said, was if ballots were stuffed — or were allowed to be stuffed.

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