Afghan voters coerced at gunpoint -- Ghani

Aug. 24, 2009 at 12:22 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Long shot Afghan presidential contender Ashraf Ghani joined his counterparts claiming widespread fraud and intimidation in the Thursday vote.

Afghan voters trickled to the polls Thursday to take part in the second-ever election against the backdrop of a massive international troop presence meant to control a vibrant Taliban insurgency.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his closest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, issued rival claims of victory Friday. Abdullah later emerged with challenges to the validity of the vote, pointing to widespread discrepancies in the south, where Karzai was expected to have a strong showing.

Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank executive, released his own list of more than 30 complaints filed with Afghan election officials.

In the northern province of Balkh, Ghani says supporters of Abdullah forced voters to cast their ballots for the former foreign minister at gunpoint. Similar complaints were filed against Karzai supporters in Herat province, with additional challenges of ballot-stuffing.

The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan said it would certify the final results in mid-September after all complains have been investigated.

The vote will go to a runoff in October if no candidate emerges with at least a 50 percent plus 1 majority.

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