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Fate of votes from 444 sites stays uncertain

Fate of votes from 444 sites stays uncertain

May 05, 2014 - 22:20

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): A week has passed since the Independent Election Commission (IECinfo-icon) said it was investigating suspect ballots cast at 444 polling centres, but their fate remains unknown.

On April 29, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told Pajhwok Afghan News ballots from the 444 polling centres for presidential polls had not been incorporated in the preliminary results.
He said a report about investigations into the suspicious ballots would be given to the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission to take a decision on their fate.

IEC officials would not reveal in which provinces these polling centres are located. This past week, Pajhwok had contacted IEC twice on the issue. Once Pajhwok was told investigations into the ballots had been completed, but later officials said the probe was still ongoing.

Once again Pajhwok contacted a senior IEC official, Ziaul Haq Amarkhel, who said their investigation into the 444 sites was near completion. “We are hopeful the IEC will make a final decision on the fate of these votes until tomorrow.”

IEC officials had previously said the 444 sites had serious problems which led to the suspension of counting votes.

They cited votes in one box equal to two boxes, a lack of result sheets, reopening of boxes once locked and no labels on some boxes and other problems which led to putting the ballots into the quarantine.

But Amarkhel said such problems were not uncommon when the number of polling stations exceeded 21000.

IEC head Ahmad Yousaf Nuristani, while announcing the preliminary results on April 26, said audit into the 444 polling centres would need two days to complete before sending the findings to the Independent Electoral Commission (IECC).

To a question why the probe could not be completed so far, Amarkhel cited counting of votes cast for provincial council candidates as one of the reasons behind the delay.

“We have to work on the provincial council elections simultaneously with investigating the 444 polling centres. We want to conduct a thorough probe and collect authentic information and share that with the people.”

He said the 444 centres were in 20 to 25 provinces, but the number of votes was unknown as yet.

However, some political analysts believe the IEC is intentionally delaying its probe into the 444 polling centres because the Presidential Palace wants the two top-rated candidates to form a coalition government.

Political expert Haji Syed Daud said although it remained unclear if votes of the 444 polling centres would have a big impact on the final results to avoid a runoff between the two leading runners, it was clear the Presidential Palace has been trying to strike a deal between the two --- Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

“All eyes are fixed on votes cast at the 444 polling centres. The IEC should have made a decision on the fate of these votes and should have informed the masses.”

After the preliminary results, President Karzai had twice met with Abdullah and Ahmadzai and IEC officials.

Amarkhel, who attended yesterday’s meeting with Karzai, said there had been no discussion aimed at encouraging the two leading candidates to join hands.

He said the meeting had been confused on the ongoing electoral process and preparations for a possible runoff vote.

Meanwhile, an aide to Abdullah asked the IEC to announce the outcome of its probe into the 444 centres as soon as possible.

Abdullah’s team member Syed Hussain Sanchakari said the delay in deciding the fate of these votes raised questions in minds of candidates and voters.

A member of Ahmadzai’s team Azita Rifat said they expected the IEC would fairly investigate votes polled at the 444 centres before sending its findings to the IECC.



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