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Election results delayed again as Afghanistan contact group meets in Rome

Diplomats from over 40 countries have met in Rome with US commander David Petraeus to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The conference was chaired by German special representative Michael Steiner.

Even a month after the election, the results have not been disclosed

Even a month after the election, results have not been disclosed

The meeting comes at a moment when, even a month after the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, the outcome has not been declared.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission or IEC postponed the announcement of preliminary results for the second time over the weekend, calling off a press conference at short notice. The delay comes as the separate, joint international-Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission said it has been reviewing more than 4,000 complaints of fraud.

The IEC's spokesman, Noor Mohammad Noor, said the results are now due on Wednesday. "The Electoral Complaints Commission should investigate all the electoral complaints, and when this commission informs us that they have investigated all the complaints we will announce the final results of the Afghan parliamentary elections."

How many votes will be declared invalid?

The IEC has said that certain ballots from 571 polling stations, about a tenth of the total, will be disqualified; and the votes from hundreds of other stations are being checked once again.

No clear figures were given as to how many votes would be cancelled in total. In last year's presidential election, 1.5 million votes had been discounted as fraudulent. According to a report in the New York Times, this time the figure might go up to one fourth of the votes cast, or more than one million ballots, in other words. But one candidate, who preferred not to give his name, clearly thought this was not enough, claiming that "maybe one percent of the votes are real, the remaining are all fake votes gained through fraud."

Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Michael Steiner

Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan

'Hype' about negotiations with the Taliban

The election and its outcome was one of the issues on the agenda of the Afghanistan international contact group in Rome on Monday. Besides, the international community has mostly been focused on two other issues over the past few weeks: when can Afghan forces take over responsibility for at least limited regions in the country? And how can reconciliation talks be held with the Taliban?

In an interview on Monday, the German government's special representative for Afghanistan, Michael Steiner, joined those who have been warning of a "hype", as he put it, regarding such reconciliation talks.

"We should be really careful in dealing with this," Steiner said, "and I'd ask you to respect that there needs to be a certain discretion. It is crucial that the Afghan government has the leading role in this effort, and we can only support it. We have to back this process because it is inevitable, but we shouldn't talk too much about it."

Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

'Kickstarting' transition

At a press conference in Rome, Steiner added that a NATO summit in Lisbon next month was to "kickstart" the transition process in Afghanistan. His US counterpart Richard Holbrooke said that General Petraeus had presented an "encouraging report" about progress in Afghanistan. But Holbrooke also made it clear that the upcoming Lisbon meeting was not going to announce a schedule for the transfer of responsibility in certain provinces to Afghan forces.

Both Steiner and Holbrooke highlighted the participation by an Iranian delegate in Rome. Holbrooke said the US recognized that Iran had a role to play in a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Author: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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