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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 11:57 GMT
Delays sour Afghan poll mood

By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

Afghan election counter
Election officials say fraud allegations are mostly unfounded

It has been a confusing situation since Afghans went to the polls to elect their first parliament and provincial councils in more than 30 years.

More than a month later, the counting of votes has been completed and provisional results released for all provinces.

But the final results have been held back until the Election Complaints Commission has checked every fraud allegation.

A delay on Monday - followed by yet another on Wednesday - means the final verdict of the Afghan people is still not known.

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Monday's delay came as the commission needed to finish checking five of Afghanistan's 34 provinces and the Kuchi nomad constituency.

The five provinces were Kabul, the biggest constituency with 33 of the 249 seats, Paktia, Nangahar, Kandahar and Paktika.

Paktika is the province that has been affected by the greatest number of fraud allegations.

More than 30% of the ballots there have been quarantined or excluded from the count - which has provoked many demonstrations by candidates who were standing there and who have almost certainly lost.

On Wednesday, Kandahar could still not be certified and the results were pushed back again.

Allegations

The delays have soured the positive mood of polling day.

If the majority of the MPs are either warlords or conservative people, it can influence the future of Afghanistan unfortunately in a very negative way
Hossain Ramoz, Afghan Human Rights Commission

Election officials say most of the fraud allegations are unfounded, although the commission's operations chief, Richard Atwood, admits there were far more complaints than expected.

"There have been an enormous amount of allegations of fraud, in particular of course from losing candidates.

"While we have identified some instances of fraud, it's clear that the fraud in the count centres was not as widespread as has been indicated.

"And I certainly don't think the level of fraud here detracts from the overall legitimacy of the bodies that have been elected."

One election protester in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, was not convinced.

"The votes were not counted in the right way. Some officials changed the results. So some people, for example, who got just 80 votes were given 800 votes in the final result," he said.

Warlords

There is worry too over what kind of parliament will result, because many of those who have confirmed seats are former mujahideen commanders - sometimes referred to as warlords.

Shukria Barazkai
Shukria Barazkai fears an "old mentality" in the new assembly

New MP Shukria Barazkai says parliament will be a "collection of former warlords... with just a few democrats and bright minded people".

Many Afghans say some of these warlord figures should be in the dock, not in parliament, because of their alleged involvement in past atrocities.

And there are concerns they will band together to squash attempts to set up a judicial process to try them or that they could try to impose their more conservative Islamic beliefs.

Hossain Ramoz, executive director of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, says: "If the majority of the MPs are either warlords or conservative people, it can influence the future of Afghanistan unfortunately in a very negative way."

But the success of the assembly is as important for the international community as it is for Afghanistan.

Although the country has made progress since US-led forces overthrew the Taleban four years ago, its stability and future are still far from assured and security fears, and especially poverty, still blight the lives of most Afghans.

Even before the elections, many doubted the assembly would do much to improve their daily lives.

Those doubts have grown since the results started to become clear.

Ms Barazkai fears the "old mentality" of the mujahideen is still there.

She just hopes the new assembly will spur them to "clean their mind" of the past.


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