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Afghan commission finds thousands of uncounted ballots

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan Independent Election Commission has discovered tens of thousands of previously uncounted ballots cast in the September parliamentary elections, a commission official said Sunday.

Abdullah Ahmadzai said the commission plans to announce this week that the additional votes will be added to preliminary results released publicly last month. But he said it is unlikely there will be significant changes among the winners of the 249 seats of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament.

"We checked our warehouses and found those," Ahmadzai said of the missing votes, which were spread through 511 polling centers in 20 provinces. "There will not be any significant changes in the results. However, there may be changes in one or two provinces."

Ahmadzai said more changes could come after the commission completes an audit of an additional 76 voting centers at which major irregularities have been alleged. He did not indicate whether the audit found rampant abuse by polling officials or candidates.

The disclosures came on a day in which more than 200 Afghans marched through the streets of Kabul, carrying signs and chanting slogans denouncing the election results and calling on the commission to stage a public recount. The protest — the second in the capital and third across the country this week — came amid increasing allegations of ballot-box stuffing, falsified voter cards and bribes of election officials.

The commission has invalidated 1.3 million of the more than 5 million votes it said were cast Sept. 18. And the Afghan attorney general's office last week announced a criminal investigation into at least nine cases in which election officials, all but one of them at the election commission's Kabul headquarters, are accused of rigging votes.

The controversy has dashed hopes of Afghan officials and international monitors that this year's parliamentary campaign would go more smoothly than last year's presidential election, when President Hamid Karzai was returned to office despite widespread allegations of fraud.

Also Sunday

• Afghan authorities recovered the bodies of five more of the 16 policemen who vanished a week ago after an apparent Taliban attack on their remote base in eastern Afghanistan. The discovery brought to nine the number of confirmed deaths and is the latest suggestion the policemen did not defect willingly, as some Afghan officials initially suspected, but in fact were captured by Taliban fighters.

• A pair of American drone strikes killed 14 suspected militants in northwestern Pakistan in the latest attacks against al-Qaida and Taliban militants seeking sanctuary in the region.

Times wires

Afghan commission finds thousands of uncounted ballots 11/07/10 [Last modified: Sunday, November 7, 2010 10:09pm]
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