Hamid Karzai's supporters set up hundreds of fake polling stations that delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to the Afghan president, even though nobody voted there, diplomats tell the New York Times. The incumbent's team created as many as 800 fake sites, existing only on paper. Karzai allies also occupied a further 800 polling places, keeping voters away and sending in their own results. Western officials say the number of ballots exceeds voters by a factor of 10. "This was fraud en masse," said one.
Times correspondents Dexter Filkins and Carlotta Gall report that most of the fraud took place in eastern Pashtun areas, particularly Kandahar, where Karzai's brother is the regional strongman. In Kandahar province 350,000 ballots are waiting to be counted, but diplomats say only 25,000 people turned up to vote. The US is keeping mum, anxious to remain publicly neutral, but behind the scenes one Western official said the next week could determine whether the entire vote will survive scrutiny. "This is crunch time," he said. (Read more Hamid Karzai stories.)