KABUL, Afghanistan — When the campaign team led by Manawar Shah came under threat on the day of the Afghan presidential runoff, it was not from the Taliban, he said, but from the people who were supposed to be keeping order: an alliance of government officials, security forces and supporters of the candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Beaten and prevented from using their video equipment and cellphones, his team members, working for the candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Khost province, spent June 14 watching fraud but unable to document it. In one polling center, Shah said, they saw 500 voters and election officials casting multiple ballots, for a total of 10,531 votes.
That episode and others like it led Abdullah to level accusations of a conspiracy by Ahmadzai, election officials and President Hamid Karzai to rig the vote, plunging the country into crisis and creating a new threat of factional violence.
Ahmadzai and Karzai have denied Abdullah's accusations. But interviews with Afghan and international officials support some of the most serious of Abdullah's claims, offering details of a broad effort to push the runoff to Ahmadzai, including ballot-box stuffing orchestrated by an ally of Karzai.
The huge scale of the fraud — involving perhaps more than 2 million ballots out of about 8 million reported cast, according to independent international estimates — has stymied efforts to achieve a democratic transition.
Now, hopes for salvaging the election have come down to an audit, a vast operation supervised by professional election observers spread out across several warehouses in Kabul.
Neither campaign can guarantee that its supporters were clean, a diplomat in Kabul said.