Afghan body invalidates all Kabul votes in October parliamentary election

Afghan body invalidates all Kabul votes in October parliamentary election Afghan body invalidates all Kabul votes in October parliamentary election

Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) has declared that all votes cast in Kabul Province during the country’s October parliamentary election are invalid.

IECC spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said during a press briefing in the capital Kabul on Thursday that the decision was made for different reasons, including major fraud and mismanagement by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC).

"There were serious outstanding problems in Kabul that could hurt the fairness, transparency and inclusiveness of the election," media outlets quoted the spokesman as saying.

He went on to say that hundreds of complaints had been filed about voting irregularities in the Afghan capital and surrounding areas of Kabul Province.

Figures show over a million votes were recorded in Kabul, accounting for about a quarter of the roughly 4 million votes cast nationwide. Lawmakers who represent Kabul Province have 33 of the 250 seats in Afghanistan’s lower chamber of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

The ruling must be upheld by the IEC, the body with overall authority over the ballot. If confirmed by the IEC, the decision would call into question the validity of the election.

The elections were already marred by allegations of voter fraud, technical problems with biometric voter verification equipment and inaccurate voter lists. Authorities have still not released complete results from the Oct. 20 parliamentary vote, which saw chaotic delays that forced voting to continue into the following day.

The election originally was scheduled for October 2016 but was postponed until July 7, 2018 -- and then postponed again until October 20 when voting took place in 32 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

In southern Kandahar Province, voting was delayed by another week due to a deadly attack on the provincial police chief, General Abdul Raziq, on October 18.

Voting in Ghazni Province has still not been completed.

The latest recommendation to cancel the vote in Kabul adds to uncertainty over the April 20 presidential election. Election authorities have said they are considering postponing the vote until July due to organizational difficulties.

Any delay to the presidential election could affect hoped-for peace talks with the Taliban, which have opened contacts with the United States.

The Kabul government has stepped up efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.

Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the Taliban. 

At an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva, Ghani said the 12-person negotiating team includes both men and women and will be led by his chief of staff Abdul Salam Rahimi. 

Contacts have already started between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives with both sides aiming to build a favorable position in advance of any talks.

At the request of the US, a Taliban office was established in Doha in 2013 to facilitate peace talks. In recent months, Taliban representatives and Khalilzad have discussed the Taliban's conditions to end the war in Afghanistan.

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