Fraud, violence tarnished Afghan vote, watchdog says

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 20, 2010 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's leading election watchdog group accused the nation's warlords, powerbrokers and Taliban insurgents on Monday of tarnishing the closely watched parliamentary elections by stuffing ballots, attacking polling places and using fake voter cards.

Two days after Afghans cast ballots, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan released new details of polling problems.

The group's 7,000 observers reported that the Taliban and their allies had staged 275 attacks on polling sites across the country, while regional powerbrokers and their supporters orchestrated more than 150 assaults on election day.

Nader Nadery, a veteran human rights activist who leads the watchdog agency, said the election had produced mixed results for Afghan voters, and that the ongoing ballot counting and investigations of fraud allegations were a crucial test for the country's fragile democracy.

An estimated 4 million Afghans cast ballots Saturday to choose 249 lawmakers from a list of 2,500 candidates running for seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament.

While elections officials hailed the turnout, it was the lowest for any election since U.S.-backed forces forced the Taliban from power in 2001.

The United States and its allies are hoping that elections will provide a boost for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the international effort to prevent the Taliban from seizing control of the country again.

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Follow Afghanistan developments at McClatchy's Checkpoint Kabul blog

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