Watchdog disqualifies 19 over Afghanistan poll fraud

Afghanistan’s election watchdog has disqualified 19 candidates who stood in the September poll for alleged fraud.Seven of them are current members of the 249-seat parliament.The disqualifications were announced after the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission found most of their votes were fraudulent.It is the latest setback to the vote, which has been surrounded by allegations of corruption and rigging. A final result has yet to be declared.The parliamentary vote was seen as a key test for the country, a year after the re-election of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was overshadowed by fraud.Turnout was around 40% in Afghanistan’s second parliamentary election since the 2001 US-led invasion.

One Afghan official told Reuters news agency the disqualified candidates would not be able to appeal.Some cases are to be referred to the Attorney General.The Independent Election Commission has already scrapped 1.3m votes as invalid – almost a quarter of those cast – because of fraud or other irregularities. Last month, the electoral authorities said more than 220 candidates were being investigated for fraud in the election.Rallies have been held in Kabul and other cities calling for the election commissions to be scrapped.

A number of candidates took part and complained their votes had been stolen by well-connected rivals.The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says that despite the irregularities, the vote largely received the backing of the international community: Afghanistan’s coalition partners have been keen to portray the election as a success, and as further proof the country is coming closer to standing on its own two feet.Our correspondent adds that there’s been a growing row between President Karzai and the Independent Election Commission – Mr Karzai accused the commission of creating political instability and in turn, he has been accused of meddling.Members of the president’s ethnic group – Pashtuns – performed poorly in the election. In one majority Pashtun province, Ghazni, not a single Pashtun has won – Bbc