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Election Concerns Threaten Future Stability in Afghanistan

Judy Woodruff reports on new allegations of fraud in last month's Afghan presidential election and talks to experts about implications for the future.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Since millions of Afghans cast their ballots on August 20, there have been numerous charges that fraud was committed. But, today, a United Nations-backed election commission issued its first official public condemnation, citing — quote — "clear and convincing evidence of fraud."

    That group, headed by a Canadian, called for a partial recount. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's own election commission issued its own incomplete vote count today. With almost 92 percent of polling stations counted, the Afghan body said that President Karzai had won 54.1 percent, and that his closest challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, had garnered 28.3 percent. Karzai needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff.

    For more on the troubled election, we turn to Zalmay Khalilzad. He served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan during the Bush administration. He was born in Afghanistan and came to the U.S. as a student in the mid-1960s. And Alexander Thier, he is the director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan institute funded by Congress that promotes conflict resolution. He served as a U.N. humanitarian official in Afghanistan during the 1990s, and then as a legal adviser from 2002 to 2004. Thank you, gentlemen, both, for being with us. Alex Thier, I'm going to start with you first because you talked just today with an official of the U.N.-backed election commission. What exactly are they saying?

  • J. ALEXANDER THIER, U.S. Institute Of Peace:

    Well, they're saying that they went to several provinces to start looking into the allegations of fraud that have come in. They have received over 2,000 complaints, 700 of which they have prioritized as potentially affecting the outcome of the election. So, they actually went to some of the provinces to look at the ballot boxes. And what they saw wasn't pretty. They saw, as you said, clear and convincing evidence of fraud, either because there were too many ballots in the boxes, more than what they expected, because the ballot boxes were filled with ballots that were all for one candidate, or almost exclusively for one candidate, and other telltale signs, ballots that had all been marked in exactly the same way by the same pen, ballots that hadn't been folded and obviously not put properly into the ballot boxes. And, so, what they saw gave them pause that they needed to look much more broadly into ballot boxes across the country.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, so, what are they saying as of now, Alex Thier, that — that should be done?

  • J. ALEXANDER THIER:

    They're going to do an inspection of ballot boxes according to two criteria. They're going to look at all ballot boxes in the country where one candidate has garnered more than 95 percent of the vote. And they're going to look at all the ballot boxes in the country that have received more than 600 ballots per box, because the estimated number of votes maximum per box was 100, which would represent 100 percent turnout, whereas we know from the figures that — that turnout was roughly in the 30 percent to 40 percent category. And, so, a box with that many ballots looks fishy.

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