Preliminary results from Afghanistan’s September 28 presidential election --- expected to be reported on October 19 – have been delayed, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) says.
IEC chief Hawa Alam Nuristani made the announcement at a news conference in Kabul, saying the delay would "further ensure the transparency of the [electoral] process" and "restore the people's confidence in it."
"Unfortunately, because of some technical issues and for transparency, we could not announce the results based on the election timetable," she said.
Election officials reported troubles from the beginning in collecting and transferring massive amounts of information to the main IEC computer server from biometric devices used to record voter fingerprints and pictures. A time-consuming exercise of identifying fraudulent votes was cited as another major factor for the slow data entry.
All of the previous elections in Afghanistan held since the Taliban government was forced out in 2001 have been marred by allegations of fraud, leading the IEC to use biometric devices for the first time.
The commission vowed to release the preliminary results as soon as possible but did not give a possible date.
Two senior IEC members had told VOA the results would likely be delayed a week.
The presidential election was beset by violence and accusations of fraud.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on October 15 said 85 people were killed and another 373 wounded in election violence during the period from June 8 to September 30.
On polling day alone, 28 civilians were killed and 249 injured. Children accounted for more than one-third of the victims.
Afghan security forces said that, despite the high casualty toll, the election day was a success because Taliban militants failed to pull off any large-scale attacks.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted on holding the controversial vote despite the abrupt collapse in U.S.-Taliban peace talks earlier in September.
With 9.57 million Afghans registered to vote on September 28, estimates indicated that a little more than 2 million had gone to the polls, a turnout of just over 20 percent.
Fifteen candidates were on the ballot, but the election was widely seen as a two-horse race between Ghani, seeking another five-year term, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
If no candidate receives a majority in the first-round vote, a second round will be held between the top two finishers on November 23.
With fears of fraud and threats of deadly Taliban violence, it was a record low turnout.
The IEC previously said that less than one-third, or about 2.7 million of Afghanistan's 9.6 million registered voters, cast ballots.
Preliminary results were expected on October 19, allowing electoral bodies to process complaints and tally votes sent to Kabul from remote areas of the mountainous country.
Final results were initially expected to be announced on November 7.
Just two days after the election and before all votes had even arrived in Kabul for counting, Abdullah claimed victory in a move that international and local observers panned as premature.
With reporting by VOA, AFP, RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, and The Washington Post