The West’s hopes of a stable democracy in Afghanistan have been hit by claims of fraud in last month’s controversial election. Latest results show President Hamid Karzai has passed the 50 per cent mark needed to avoid a run-off. His opponent Abdullah Abdullah won about 28 per cent of the vote, but has claimed widespread ballot-rigging, especially in Karzai’s southern heartland.The UN’s election watchdog has investigated, and says it found enough evidence to justify further inquiries. “There is some correlation based on the criteria that we lay out in our order, and that’s why we are asking the Election Commission to take this action in terms of an audit and a recount,” said Grant Kippen, from the Election Complaints Commission. The West needed a clean election to counter growing public unease over the deteriorating security situation. President Obama has said Afghanistan is America’s Number One foreign priority, and he will alarmed at the claims of fraud. “The problem is that the Obama administration’s approach in Afghanistan is not just a military approach, it is a political one, and now the political strategy is tied up with the fortunes of a president who is going to have a cloud hanging over him even in the best of circumstances,” said Steve Coll, from the New America Foundation. Results from hundreds of polling stations have been annulled amid claims that the vote was rigged, but growing Taliban violence means a new election is almost unthinkable.