Decisive Recount of Ballot Boxes Begins

News - Afghanistan

The recount of votes from 6,000 ballot boxes specially picked by the presidential candidates began on Saturday. The outcome of the recount is expected to be the basis for the final results of this year's election, a process that has now dragged on for over four months.

The candidates and election officials hope that the recount, which will proceed simultaneously to the comprehensive vote audit that began over a week ago, will help bring a conclusion to the election process sooner than previously expected.

IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor on Saturday said that each candidate chose 3,000 ballot boxes reprinting polling sites around the country. It is expected that the candidates focused their selections on sites that each believed to have been originally miscounted in favor of their opponent.

"This process is part of the regular process, and there is not much difference," Noor said. According to the IEC, the recounted ballots from the 6,000 boxes will be inspected for fraud before being included in the tabulation. If any are found to have less than certain credibility, they will be pulled out and added to the separate, comprehensive vote audit process.

Both presidential teams welcomed the special recount, which was said to have been originally proposed by the United Nations, which has overseen and mediated much of this year's audit.

"We are pleased with the recount process of the 6,000 ballot boxes, but we hope that the process is accelerated and that, in the next six days, all the 6,000 ballot boxes will be recounted," said Daoud Sultanzoy, the lead technical officer representing Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's campaign.

But Waheed Omer, a member of Abdullah Abdullah's camp, has emphasized that Abdullah does not want the integrity of the process to be sacrificed for the sake of time. "We take this process - the regular audit process and also the meeting of the IEC in regard to the invalidation of ballots - seriously, and whenever we know of carelessness, we will voice strong objection," he said.

Meanwhile, the IEC also announced on Saturday that the registration of already audited ballots into the official election database had begun two days prior. "The entering of the results in the system started on Thursday, and when a significant amount is entered, the system will automatically invalidate ballots," Noor explained.

Officials said on Friday that 9,378 ballot boxes, making 41 percent of the total number had been audited. There are up to 130 auditing groups in the process now, with 1,341 observers monitoring their work.

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