Afghan polls protesters warn of possible violence

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (BestGrowthStock) – Disgruntled lawmakers and candidates in Afghanistan’s parliamentary election, marred by allegations of fraud, renewed protests on Sunday over the poll and warned of possible violence if a fresh vote was not carried out.

No results have been declared nearly seven weeks after the election. The protests are another sign of political instability in Afghanistan, already facing a growing Taliban-led insurgency.

Joined by hundreds of supporters, the candidates and members of parliament who had sought re-election in Kabul denounced the September 18 election as illegal and urged a new poll.

They marched from the palace of President Hamid Karzai past U.N. headquarters to deliver a resolution to the U.S. embassy.

“We said that the results of the election will further worsen Afghanistan’s security and force millions of people to head to the mountains” to take up arms, lawmaker Daoud Sultanzoy, an outspoken critic of Karzai’s government, told Reuters after the demonstration.

“We said this election should be scrapped.”

A small group of candidates held a similar protest in Jalalabad, about 150 km (95 miles) east of Kabul. They denounced the vote as fraudulent and warned that the new parliament could be seen as illegitimate but did not call for another election.

The United Nations was the key election organizer. The United States, which has the bulk of some 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, was among major donors for the elections.

Nearly a quarter of the votes for the lower house of parliament have already been disqualified by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Allegations of fraud have also been leveled against the IEC itself, including senior members in the commission. Two weeks after the election, the IEC said its provincial election chief in the eastern province of Khost had been arrested over fraud complaints.

The lawmakers and candidates accuse IEC officials of bribe-taking and having their own votes unfairly tossed out.

A deputy attorney general said last week a fraud investigation had been launched into officials at the IEC following allegations from candidates.

The credibility of the vote will weigh heavily when U.S. President Barack Obama reviews his Afghanistan strategy in December amid rising violence and sagging public support.

It will also likely be discussed at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Lisbon this month.

Several of Karzai’s ministries are being run by caretakers after parliament rejected numerous nominations this year. Karzai will not be able to put new appointments forward until a new parliament is formed.

Final results were due at the end of October. They have been pushed back by at least several weeks while a U.N.-backed watchdog sifts through the thousands of complaints.

Western nations have been wary of following Afghan officials in dubbing the election a success after last year’s fraud-marred presidential ballot. The top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan said last month “considerable fraud” had taken place.

(Additional reporting by Mohammad Rafiq in JALALABAD, Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Marshall)

Afghan polls protesters warn of possible violence