Afghan vote results delayed: official

It is not known how long the vote count will be delayed

epa07934251 Hawa Alam Nuristani (2-R) head of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) talks with journalists during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, 19 October 2019. The head of the IEC said that due to the technical issues we could not announced the preliminary result of the 28th September presidential election according to the deadline, therefore, we apologize from the people of Afghanistan promising that in the upcoming days they will announce the result.  EPA/JAWAD JALALI
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Preliminary results expected on Saturday after last month's presidential election in Afghanistan have been delayed, the election commission said.

Officials had previously indicated that results would likely be pushed back.

But in her announcement, Awa Alam Nuristani, who heads the Independent Election Commission, did not say how long the vote count will be delayed.

"Unfortunately, because of some technical issues and for transparency, we could not announce the results based on the election timetable," she said.,

The IEC previously said that less than one-third, or about 2.7 million of Afghanistan's 9.6 million registered voters, cast ballots in the September 28 first-round poll.

With fears of fraud and threats of deadly Taliban violence, it was a record low turnout.

The contest featured 18 candidates but President Ashraf Ghani, seeking a second five-year term, and Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, are the favourites.

Just two days after the election and before all votes had even arrived in Kabul for counting, Mr Abdullah claimed victory in a move that international and local observers saw as premature.

On October 12, his running mate Asadullah Saadati complained of "systemic fraud" organised by "circles within the election commission and the palace".

Voting this year was supposed to be more secure than ever, with each voter verified through biometric machines to ensure no one could cast multiple ballots.

Mr Saadati claimed the IEC was counting "fraudulent" and non-biometric votes.

The IEC has repeatedly said it would not count votes unless they had been verified biometrically.

But use of biometric readers to prevent repeat voting complicated the process, partly because communication breakdowns prevented data from numerous readers being transmitted to the IEC on voting day. Instead, the machines had to be taken to the commission in Kabul to extract the data.

Highlighting the challenges it faces, the commission has said unidentified hackers unsuccessfully attempted to break into its computer servers.

After a recent visit to the IEC, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan Dave Metcalfe said he was "impressed" by the commission's attempts to fight voter fraud.

Election officials have called on candidates to show restraint and wait for the preliminary results to avoid a repeat of 2014.

That year's election was marred by duelling claims of victory and fraud by Mr Abdullah and Mr Ghani.

The IEC's initial timetable called for final results on November 7, after which a second electoral round would be held within two weeks if necessary.