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UN-Afghan electoral authority isolates some ballots as counting of votes begins

UN-Afghan electoral authority isolates some ballots as counting of votes begins

The counting of votes in Afghanistan's historic presidential election began today after officials from the joint United Nations-Afghan electoral authority agreed to isolate some ballot boxes for further investigation of alleged polling irregularities.

Ballot boxes from 10 polling centres and 11 polling stations have been quarantined, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) said today in a statement from Kabul, following a request from the panel of independent experts appointed to probe candidates' complaints about Saturday's vote.

The two members of the expert panel, Craig Jenness and Staffan Darnolf, told reporters yesterday that their request does not necessarily mean that irregularities have occurred.

"It does mean that in reviewing these complaints expeditiously it was evident that further investigation was required in these locations," Mr. Jenness said.

Candidates were originally supposed to file their complaints by 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday, but the panellists have extended that period to allow additional complaints to be submitted until 6 p.m. today. So far Mr. Jenness and Mr. Darnolf have received 43 complaints relating to voting in Kabul, Ghazni, Wardak and Logar provinces, and reviewed 37 of them by yesterday.

Now that the ballot boxes in question have been isolated, JEMB said the process of sorting and counting votes could begin. Counting is expected to take several weeks.