By J Alexander Thier
Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) released its findings on Sunday, showing that there were nearly 1.3 million fraudulent votes in Afghanistan’s August 20 presidential election. In a letter to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), the ECC announced that it found some 210 polling stations riddled with fraud, from the sample of 350 polling stations it had examined. When this total is applied to the entire group of questionable ballot boxes, the result is over 2,100 polling stations disqualified, containing 1.26 million votes.
Those disqualifications leave incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai with some 48.3 percent of the vote, according to my calculations and those done by Democracy International. It also gave a small boost to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the leading challenger with 31.5 percent of the vote, and third place finisher Ramazan Bashadost with just over 10 percent of the vote.
The IEC, long accused of being biased in favor of Karzai, received the information from the ECC on Sunday but has yet to say whether it will apply these findings to the vote total and certify the results of the election. If accepted, these results would require a run-off between Karzai and Abdullah. The Afghan constitution calls for the run-off to proceed within two weeks of the announcement of the results, although preparations for the vote would likely take a bit longer.
Perhaps more importantly, it remains unclear whether Karzai will accept the outcome of the ECC decision. Afghan and international powerbrokers are reportedly filing in and out of the presidential palace, either trying to encourage Karzai to accept the decision or to make a power-sharing deal.
The two-month long post-election calamity — longer than our own national electoral nightmare in 2000 — has further contributed to Afghanistan’s growing instability.
Stay tuned to the AfPak Channel for more election analysis as news breaks.
J Alexander Thier is the Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the US Institute of Peace. He is co-author and editor of “The Future of Afghanistan” (USIP, 2009). He lived in Afghanistan for about 7 of the last 16 years, and travels there frequently.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images