Though many Afghan citizens and politicians are alleging fraud, analysts say getting to the bottom of what happened is a difficult exercise.
If a ballot box was stuffed but nobody saw it, did it happen?
That's a crucial question as claims of fraud surrounding Afghanistan's presidential election last week continue to pour in. On Wednesday, the Afghan electoral commission said Hamid Karzai's lead had widened to 44.8 percent of ballots counted against 35.1 percent for his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, with the ballots from 17 percent of the country's polling stations counted.
Afghan investigators say they're scrutinizing all complaints, but since electoral observers weren't present at many polling places, much fraud could have taken place out of view. Aside from a negligible contingent of international monitors, independent Afghan monitors only covered 60 percent of the polling centers.
That's going to make it very difficult to determine whether cheating undermined the choice of Afghan voters. And while analysts say they can work around missing data using statistical tools and common sense, subjective assessments could be easily politicized by Afghans and others unhappy with their conclusions.
"The main reason why you haven't seen a strong international reaction yet is that it is unclear what kind of results are going to be presented," says Martine van Bijlert, codirector of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul. "We don't know yet whether we are going to be asked to believe the implausible."
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