KABUL: Top Afghan prosecutors said Thursday they had arrested senior election officials and opened new criminal investigations into vote fraud, dismissing as "premature" the announcement of final results.
Mohammad Ishaq Alko, the country’s leading prosecutor, told a local radio station he had evidence that election workers were involved in fraud during the September 18 parliamentary vote.
He criticized the election commission for "prematurely" releasing results before his criminal investigations had been completed.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Wednesday announced 238 seats from the controversial election, leaving 11 unendorsed from the troubled province of Ghazni, where Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, failed to win a single seat.
Analysts say President Hamid Karzai’s support in the new parliament appears to have weakened and his main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, claimed Wednesday that his loyalists won more than 90 seats in the 249-member chamber.
Investigations into massive fraud have already cancelled a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast, following more than 5,000 complaints of fraud, and disqualified 24 people declared to have won under preliminary results.
"We have evidence that people’s votes were traded in Kabul and Dubai," Alko told Radio Azadi, a Kabul-based news station also known as Radio Free Europe.
He said eight people had been arrested.
His deputy, Rahmatullah Nazari, told AFP that four people, two of them senior election officers, had been arrested and a hunt for a fifth man — a UN-affiliated election official had been launched.
"They’re big, they’re in decision-making positions," Nazari said in reference to the two election workers. The other two were money dealers involved in vote fraud, Nazari said.
He said the vote, Afghanistan’s second post-Taliban parliamentary election, was tainted by widespread fraud involving election officials.
He accused the election body of not cooperating with his investigators "because they have committed massive fraud and they don’t want this to be revealed". He refused to give names of those involved.
Nazari showed AFP a letter which he said was "contract" for a deal worth 220,000 dollars between "an election candidate" and an alleged election worker.
"The announcement of the election results by the commission was premature. Our investigations had not finished.
"It would have been transparent, lawful and better if it had been released after we’d finished our investigations," he said.
Nazari criticized the endorsement of Wednesday’s results by the UN mission in Kabul, saying "this is not acceptable for us".