Karzai believes too early to judge Afghan election

Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:36pm GMT

By Emma Graham-Harrison and Jonathon Burch

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes it is too early to judge the quality of this weekend's parliamentary vote, his spokesman said on Monday, as the election watchdog said it expected thousands of fraud complaints.

Afghan election officials had been quick to declare Saturday's vote a success despite reports of fraud, low voter turnout and attacks by the Taliban across the country.

But chief Karzai spokesman Waheed Omer said that while holding the election in the face of threats of violence from the Taliban and massive logistical challenges had been a great achievement, it was too early to assess its overall success.

"It is early for us to make concrete judgement ... as far as the quality of the election is concerned, and organisation, this is too early to judge," Omer told a news conference in Kabul.

"The president and government will make judgement after the relevant organisations have concluded their work," he said, adding that Karzai had cancelled a planned trip to the United Nations to follow the vote counting process.

Results of the election are being closely watched in Washington ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's planned war strategy review in December, expected to look at the speed and scope of U.S. troop withdrawals after nine years of war.

A flawed poll could weigh on Obama when his administration faces mid-term Congressional elections in November amid sagging public support for the war, with violence at its worst since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

On Sunday, Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, also said it was too early to describe the poll as a success, as some Afghan election officials had done when voting ended on Saturday.   Continued...

<p>Representatives of candidates check the results in front of a polling station in Kabul September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj</p>
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