Afghan election authorities on Monday strongly denied top officials were guilty of fraud after front-running presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah unleashed allegations that could threaten a smooth transition of power. Abdullah s fraud claims put him in direct conflict with the Independent Election Commission (IEC), raising fears of political instability as the bulk of US-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Abdullah demanded the sacking of Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, head of the IEC secretariat, over Amarkhail s alleged attempt to remove unused ballots from the IEC headquarters in Kabul on polling day. He also said the IEC s turnout figure of seven million voters in Saturday s run-off election was probably false. But IEC chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani rejected the accusations against Amarkhail, and said the turnout figure was an early estimate that might be adjusted.
The dispute erupted despite pleas from the United Nations and European Union for Abdullah and his poll rival Ashraf Ghani to give officials time to conduct the count and adjudicate on fraud complaints. A successful election is a key test of the 13-year international military and aid effort to develop Afghanistan since the fall of the austere Taliban regime in 2001.
“I strongly reject these allegations,” Nuristani said, adding that Amarkhail was stopped by police when he was overseeing the delivery of extra ballot papers to polling stations that had run out.