Secret UN report slur on massive vote fraud

KABUL: As Afghan election officials audit suspect votes in the country’s fraud-tainted election, a US newspaper said today it had obtained secret UN documents showing evidence of massive ballot stuffing.

The Washington Post cited what it said was confidential UN data showing substantial discrepancies in the election, with vote counts in some provinces exceeding actual voters by more than 100,000.

Afghans voted on August 20 for a president and provincial councillors but the elections have been overshadowed by allegations of fraud, and controversy over the role of the UN in keeping the process clean.

Most of the allegations have been directed against incumbent Hamid Karzai, including findings by European Union observers that a quarter of all votes, or 1.5 million, were suspicious.

Karzai leads the preliminary results with around 55 percent of the vote. He needs 50 percent plus one vote to be declared the winner.

His main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has around 28 percent and has been at the forefront of vote-rigging accusations against Karzai. Observers — including sacked former deputy UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith — have said 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent.

The IEC is currently auditing suspect ballots at its Kabul headquarters to determine the level of fraud and whether or not a run-off is needed between Karzai and Abdullah.

To do this, 10 percent of ballots in 3,498 ballot boxes are being examined for evidence of tampering and ballot-stuffing.

Grant Kippen, chairman of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), told AFP the audit will take most of this week, with the final declaration not expected before late next week.

The Washington Post cited a spreadsheet kept secret by the UN chief envoy in Kabul, Kai Eide, who has been under pressure to release details of what Galbraith has described as “very extensive” voter fraud.

The UN data obtained by the Post showed major discrepancies between actual voter turnout and the results, particularly in provinces where Karzai won by wide margins.

In southern Helmand province, where 134,804 votes were recorded — 112,873 for Karzai — the UN estimated

just 38,000 people voted,

and perhaps as few as 5,000, the Post said.

In Paktika province, while 212,405 valid votes were cast according to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), including 193,541 for Karzai, the UN estimated just 35,000 people voted.

Kandahar province recorded 252,866 votes, including 221,436 for Karzai, but the UN voter estimate was 100,000.

In several provinces won by Abdullah the UN estimated larger turnout than those recorded by election officials. In Balkh province, the UN

estimates 450,000 people

voted, but results showed 297,557 votes.

Galbraith told the newspaper the data was critical to assessing the credibility of the election and should have been handed over to Afghan officials and international election monitors, but that Eide refused.

“I think we did an excellent job at collecting data,” he said. “We collected it with the idea of assisting the Afghan legal party that was investigating fraud, but Kai opposed turning it over.” Galbraith has described Eide as being biased in favour of Karzai.

UN officials in Kabul were not immediately available to comment on the Washington Post story.

The IEC will report on the audit results to the ECC, which will then analyse the data and issue an order to the IEC on what adjustments to make, he said.

Confusion dogs the audit as commissioners have found it difficult to explain the workings of a complex statistical technique that has never been used in this way before.

ECC commissioner Scott Worden said the suspect ballots have been divided into six categories, in a process aimed at identifying which candidates were the worst offenders in terms of fraud.

The wait of almost two months has led to widespread frustration and disillusionment among Afghans, along with concerns that the delay in filling the political vacuum has stymied progress in the anti-insurgent war.

There is a growing perception that the UN, long seen as the stabilising force behind Karzai’s weak and corrupt government, has been biased towards the incumbent throughout the flawed election process.