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Charges Of Fraud Could Affect Afghanistan Election

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

The American chairman of the commission investigating complaints about last Thursday's presidential polls in Afghanistan says some of the charges his team is reviewing are serious enough to affect the outcome.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Kabul.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: At a news conference, Grant Kippen said the election complaints commission he chairs received 225 complaints from around Afghanistan.

Mr. GRANT KIPPEN (Chairman, Election Complaints Commission): The allegations contained in the complaints we've received so far range from voter intimidation, violence, ballot-box tampering, interference in the polling, polling stations not opening and problems with the indelible ink.

SARHADDI NELSON: The ink was used to stain voters' fingers to prevent them from casting ballots more than once. Kippen said the more serious charges they are looking into came from provinces where Taliban gun and bomb attacks affected voter turnout and prevented independent monitors from going to the polls. He said that 35 of the complaints are so serious that they could affect the final results.

Mr. KIPPEN: But I think it's important to point out that in order to do a proper investigation, we require as much information as possible about these particular irregularities. It's not enough to just say there was voting fraud somewhere. We need to know where it took place and when it took place.

SARHADDI NELSON: That's been difficult, he said, because of the delays in moving ballots and complaints from individual polling centers to Afghan independent election commission headquarters here in Kabul. Preliminary election results are expected as early as Tuesday, although Kippen said it's too early to set any final date for certifying the results.

Also unclear at this point is whether the election will go to a runoff in early October. That would happen if neither incumbent President Hamid Karzai nor his challengers get more than 50 percent of the vote. In the western city of Herat, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, in an interview with the Associated Press today, cautioned against rushing to judgment on the credibility of the election until the complaints process has run its course.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

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