Karzai Vote 'Below 50 Percent'

President Hamid Karzai, left, and his rival for the presidency, Abdullah Abdullah. (AP / EPA)

Karzai Vote 'Below 50 Percent'

Karzai, Afghanistan's president, is facing a runoff vote after a
UN-backed election watchdog recommended that thousands of ballots
apparently cast in his favour be scrapped, diplomatic sources have told
Al Jazeera.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) published the findings of
its long-awaited investigation into poll fraud in Afganistan's
elections on Monday.

report, published on the ECC's website, called for ballots cast at 210
polling stations during the country's August 20 polls to be discarded.

Sources told Al Jazeera that the move had pushed Karzai's share of
the vote to below 50 per cent, the number needed to avoid a runoff with
Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival.

sources tell me that the figures clearly show Hamid Karzai is well
below the crucial 50 per cent margin," James Bays, Al Jazeera's
correspondent in Kabul, reported.

"I understand that key ambassadors are now meeting with the UN to
discuss what is the next step, what is the way forward now that Hamid
Karzai hasn't reached the 50 per cent following this procedure by the
Electoral Complaints Commission."

But Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Karzai's campaign, dismissed claims
that the complaints commission report meant a runoff would be necessary.

"I don't think we can make any judgement based on the figures announced today," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Preliminary results last month had showed Karzai winning the
election with more than 54 per cent of the vote, but allegations of
massive fraud prompted the complaints commission's investigation.

The Independent Election Commission, the Afghan electoral body which
organised the vote, is still to announce the official results, but
the ECC's findings are seen as key to the outcome.

The complaints commission said in a statement accompanying its
findings that the Afghan election authorities were now responsible for
adjusting candidates' vote totals in accordance with the ECC's decision
before it may certify the final result".

"This does bring the country to another period of crisis and confusion about what should happen next," Bays said.

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