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Al Jazeera, September 26, 2010

Afghan “vote-rigging videos” emerge

Amateur footage appears to show fake votes being filled in as border police tasked with stopping poll fraud look on

The integrity of Afghanistan's recent parliamentary election has been plunged into fresh doubt with the emergence of amateur videos that appear to show police officers tasked with stopping fraud allowing vote-rigging to occur.


The videos, obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera, cannot be independently verified but appear to show Afghan police involvement in electoral fraud, dealing a blow to official claims that any dishonesty linked to poll did not have the backing of state officials.

The first video shows fake ballot papers being filled out in a Kandahar house as a man in an Afghan border police uniform looks on. The second shows ballot boxes and voting papers lying on a roadside next to stacks of ballot papers. A police car is parked nearby, once again suggesting official involvement in the fraud.

A local parliamentary candidate who saw the videos told Al Jazeera that he was not surprised by what the videos showed. The candidate said the corruption was the result of a systemic pattern of official vote-rigging.

"12 district chiefs led a coordinated process, including involvement from high authority, the border police and officials," said Khalid Pashtun. "We were told by our agent he saw stuffing boxes one night before the election and the night after and also during day…in some areas the polling station was stolen."

Kandahar's border police have categorically denied involvement in vote-rigging, saying the video itself could be fake.

"Anyone can wear a police uniform and make a fake video. They could easily get hold of a uniform. The election went very well in our area. If there was fraud why didn’t they contact the police and we would have investigated," Abdul Raziq, the deputy chief of the border police, said in a statement.

Investigating fraud

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said it was investigating allegations of fraud in more than 10 per cent of polling centres across the country, based on complaints received from candidates' poll workers.

Candidates and poll workers have filed more than 1,000 "potentially significant" claims of fraud regarding last week's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), the joint Afghan-international body that reviews allegations of fraud, has received more than 3,000 complaints since the election on September 18. More than 1,000 have been classified as "potentially significant," meaning they could affect the outcome of the vote in a particular province.

Another 700 complaints have been labelled insignificant, while more than 1,300 have yet to be evaluated. Data is not yet available for four provinces - Paktika, Kandahar, Zabul and Nuristan - all areas where insecurity made voting particularly difficult.

Fraud appears to have been widespread across the country, according to the ECC's figures. In at least 11 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, more than 50 per cent of the complaints are potentially significant, according to the ECC.

Many of the complaints in those provinces deal principally with three types of fraud. There are polling irregularities, including ballot stuffing or the use of fake voter cards; counting irregularities, in which election officials report incorrect results; and allegations of "undue influence," when campaign or poll workers harass or intimidate voters.

Many of the complaints seem to be corroborated by reports from domestic and international observers. The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), for example - the country's largest domestic monitoring group - documented more than 300 cases of voter intimidation on election day.

The group's first preliminary report, released earlier this week, also pointed to ballot-stuffing in 280 polling centres, and proxy voting in nearly 400. And the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent research organisation based in Kabul, published a long list of anecdotal accounts of fraud from Afghan voters and officials.

A female candidate in Kandahar, for example, accused a rival of "buying 5,000 votes,"and a campaign worker in Nangarhar province said people were openly "buying voter cards in the polling centre."

The vote was the second parliamentary election to be held in Afghanistan since the Taliban was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001. Final results are not due until the end of October.

Category: Corruption - Views: 8946