US Copter Loses Ballot Boxes as Afghan Vote Count Moves Slowly Forward

Chinook Dropped 25 Ballot Boxes into the Mountains

by Jason Ditz, August 26, 2009

As the count for Afghanistan’s hotly disputed election trudges along at a snail’s pace, a bit of excitement happened when the US military admitted that it had misplaced 25 ballot boxes it was shipping from Paroon to Kabul. Actually it didn’t so much misplace them as it dropped them, off a helicopter, into what officials are describing as “the rugged mountains of Nuristan.”

Officials say that some of the ballot boxes have since been recovered, but the accident might well provide an explanation for why the Afghan government has principally relied upon donkeys to haul the ballots around. In the inhospitable countryside, finding something that fell out of a helicopter can’t be a simple task.

But the accident didn’t prevent the count from moving forward, and the election commission now says it has preliminary results from roughly 17 percent fo the polling stations. Today’s results showed Karzai widening his lead but still falling well short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

Though the results still only involve a pretty small percentage of the electorate, and little clue has been given of which districts were counted first, the results so far are in stark contrast to the raw polling data collected by the media, which predicted a landslide “victory” for Karzai amid reports of massive voter fraud.

Technically President Karzai’s term ended in mid-May, but the election commission’s decision to delay the vote (over Karzai’s objections) have extended his term until the results are sorted out. If there is a run-off vote, that could take months.

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