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Afghan election complaint body says vote in capital Kabul invalid

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By Reuters
Afghan election complaint body says vote in capital Kabul invalid
Afghan men line up to cast their votes during the parliamentary election at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani   -   Copyright  OMAR SOBHANI(Reuters)

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission ruled on Thursday that votes cast in the capital Kabul during last October’s parliamentary election were invalid, citing fraud and mismanagement.

The ruling must be upheld by the Independent Election Commission, the body with overall authority over the ballot, which was marred by allegations of voter fraud, technical problems with biometric voter verification equipment and inaccurate voter lists.

“There were serious outstanding problems in Kabul that could hurt the fairness, transparency and inclusiveness of the election,” said Ali Reza Rohani, spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission.

More than a million votes were recorded in Kabul, accounting for about a quarter of the roughly 4 million votes cast nationwide. If confirmed by the IEC, the decision would call into question the validity of an election heavily pushed by Afghanistan’s international partners.

The recommendation to cancel the vote in Kabul also 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 but so far refused to talk to the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Authorities have still not released complete results from the Oct. 20 parliamentary ballot, which saw chaotic delays that forced voting to continue into the following day.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Dsrren Schuettler)