KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission has been authorized to issue verdict about the fraud-tainted presidential elections, if any of the two contestants quits the runoff process.

The AIEC ordered run-off for the disputed presidential election after a fraud investigation decreased Hamid Karzai's votes below 50 per cent of the total.

Zakaria Barakzai, deputy of the AIEC secretariat, told a press conference here on Thursday the Constitution and the electoral law did not clarify the issue, but the AIEC had the authority to make a decision on the matter.

To a question about what decision they will take in case a candidate withdraws from the race, Barakzai said it would be premature to comment on the issue now.

The official said all required material had been transferred to all the provinces, but the voting would not take place in 11 districts in Ghazni, Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Badakhshan and Nuristan provinces due to insecurity.

He showed reporters the ballot papers carrying the photos of Hamid Karzai and his challenger Dr. Abdullah.

Barakzai said the second round of voting would be held in 6,322 polling centres, whereas there were 6,800 centres in the first round. He said accreditation cards would be issued to 20,000 monitors of each candidate next week.

About Dr. Abdullah condition that the AIEC chief Azizullah Ludin should be removed before the runoff, Barakzai said that would not be done.

"The IEC high officials are selected by the president for three years and even the president himself is not authorized to fire them before the end of their term," he explained. Barakzai said Abdullah's demand had no legal status.

Barakzai said those officials who were accused of rigging in the first round had been removed from their jobs and introduced to the concerned judicial authorities.

"If any person found guilty of fraud in future, they will have to face legal action," he warned. The runoff elections are due on November 7. The contestants are Hamid Karzai and his former foreign minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.



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