Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Afghan votes - something not quite right

You may recall that just a few days ago there were concerns about the low turnout in some areas of Afghanistan, for their presidential elections. Of particular concern was the Babaji district of Helmand province. "Operation Panther's claw" was launched in Helmand in June, with a primary aim to make the area safe for voters. Twenty-two British servicemen have lost their lives in that operation, ten of them in the Babaji district, where it appears that 150 people cast votes, out of an eligible population of 55 thousand. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8223722.stm

However, it may be that concern was misplaced, since other areas appear to have cast many more votes than there were actual voters, so it all balances out in the end; except, that is, for the wholesale ballot-stuffing in favour of incumbent president Mohammed Karzai.

The New York Times reports both senior Western and Afghan officials saying that there were as many as 800 fake voting sites, existing only on paper. Also, "we think that about 15 percent of the polling sites never opened on Election Day,” the senior Western diplomat said, “but they still managed to report thousands of ballots for Karzai.”

Besides creating the fake sites, Mr. Karzai’s supporters also took over approximately 800 legitimate polling centers and used them to fraudulently report tens of thousands of additional ballots for Mr. Karzai, the officials said. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/world/asia/07fraud.html

Most of the reported ballot-stuffing for Mohammed Karzai appears to have been in his home province of Kandahar. However, in Shorabak district the local tribal leaders had decided to endorse challenger Abdullah Abdullah, leading to some anticipation of an opposition landslide there. Instead, those tribal leaders say, all of the district's 45 polling stations were closed down on polling day; and at the end of the day 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, every single one of them marked for President Karzai.
See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/world/asia/02fraud.html

Gordon Brown has had a lot to say recently in defence of his Afghan strategy. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about this.

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