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Afghanistan - elections run-off

UN says 200 poll monitors to be replaced

Article published on the 2009-10-21 Latest update 2009-10-21 11:51 TU

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) and United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide.(Photo: Reuters)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) and United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide.
(Photo: Reuters)

United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon announced on Wednesday that more than 200 poll monitors implicated in fraud in the first round of presidential elections in Afghanistan will be replaced in the upcoming run-off.

An enquiry by a United Nations backed watchdog into August’s elections revealed a large amount of fraud, most of it in favour of President Hamid Karzai. It found that more than a quarter of the total votes were suspect.

Ban Ki-Moon has promised a number of measures in the upcoming second round of elections on 7 November, claiming that they will be “transparent and credible.”

He said the UN would work closely with the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force and local Afghan leaders to protect polling stations from Taliban threats.

But, speaking to RFI, correspondent Jonathan Boon says that time is running out to make any real change to the electoral system.

“With just two weeks to go,” he says, “there’s not enough time for the institutions involved, particularly the independent election commission, that’s the Afghan body that runs the election and is in charge with everything connected with this election.”

Analysis: Correspondent Jonathan Boon

21/10/2009 by Rosslyn Hyams

“Its fiercest critics would say that body has proved itself to be highly partisan and appears to have been involved in corruption and also bending over backwards to ensure that Mr Karzai got over 50 per cent by including the ballot boxes which should have been excluded according to its own rules.”

Boon says it’s unlikely that all these officials will be replaced. And he says there are a number of different problems which may mean any change in personnel could be rendered ineffective.

“One is the local staff who manned the polling stations on 20 August and will do so again”, he says.

“They tend to be locally recruited, they are vulnerable to coming under the sway of local tribal leaders or other sorts of power brokers. Now, even if they are replaced, a new group of people are recruited, that will probably use up most of the two weeks. Those new recruits will be at just as much risk of coming under the sway of local power brokers as the last lot.”

There were hopes that a last minute unity deal could be struck between the two main opposing candidates but Karzai’s main challenger, foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, says a second round is now the only possible scenario. A run-off will have to be organised rapidly due to the onset of the harsh Afghanistan winter. Much of the country will soon be inaccessible.

After ballots from 210 polling stations were rejected by the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, President Karzai fell short of the 50 per cent of votes needed for an outright win. He has long maintained that he won a clear first-round majority and that claims of fraud were false.

US President Barack Obama joined other world leaders to congratulate Karzai for agreeing to the second round.

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