Hundreds of tribal elders and officials from southern Afghanistan gathered in Kabul yesterday to protest against alleged electoral fraud that robbed entire districts of their votes and allocated them to President Karzai.
In a string of searing testimonies, community leaders told of villages that had been too terrified to vote because of Taleban threats — yet had mysteriously produced full ballot boxes. They said that most of the phantom votes had been cast for Mr Karzai, often by his own men or tribal leaders loyal to him.
“How is it that in a district which a governor can only visit once every two years, where it’s too dangerous for the police to go, where even Nato can’t fly — how come there were 20,000 votes collected?” asked Hamidullah Tokhy, a tribal elder from Kandahar province. [continued…]
Just a week before this country’s presidential election, the leaders of a southern Afghan tribe called Bariz gathered to make a bold decision: they would abandon the incumbent and local favorite, Hamid Karzai, and endorse his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
Mr. Abdullah flew to the southern city of Kandahar to receive the tribe’s endorsement. The leaders of the tribe, who live in a district called Shorabak, prepared to deliver a local landslide.
But it never happened, the tribal leaders said.
Instead, aides to Mr. Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali — the leader of the Kandahar provincial council and the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan — detained the governor of Shorabak, Delaga Bariz, and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election day. The ballot boxes were taken to Shorabak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots.
At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai. [continued…]
In a low-slung building tucked behind concrete blast barriers on the edge of the Afghan capital, the plain brown envelopes are opened one by one, and the complaint forms inside smoothed out and scrutinized by weary-eyed workers.
One handwritten account tells of a gunman turning up at a polling place. Another describes a candidate brazenly handing out cash bribes. Yet another reports a ballot box filled with votes only moments after the start of polling.
Nearly two weeks after Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election, the task of sorting out allegations of fraud and intimidation has swelled. More than 2,000 complaints have poured into the Electoral Complaints Commission, a U.N.-backed body given the responsibility of determining the validity of claims of election misconduct. As the vote tally slowly advances, that task becomes more and more crucial. [continued…]