KABUL, Oct 6 (AFP): War-scarred Afghanistan took another step Thursday towards forming its first parliament in more than three decades when the first provisional results from last month's landmark vote were released.
But with key warlords and members of the ousted Taliban regime dominating initial counting in some areas, there was concern the new body would become mired in the old power struggles that have broken down this destitute nation.
"We have now completed the physical process of counting the ballot papers in all provinces across Afghanistan," said Peter Erben, head of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) that organised the September 18 election.
Erben did not immediately announce who had won seats to the new national assembly and provincial councils for the two provinces.
He said other provisional results were expected in the coming days, with investigations continuing into ballot boxes that have been put in quarantine because of suspected fraud, including ballot stuffing.
"We hope to certify all the provisional results by October 22 and the parliament will then be convened by President (Hamid) Karzai," JEMB spokesman Aleem Siddique said.
That parliament, the first since 1969, would likely be a chaotic body made up of all the "same old faces", said analyst Joanna Nathan from the International Crisis Group.
"This is an election of individuals and in such a system it became all about name recognition. You see all the same old faces coming back," Nathan said.
Political parties were disallowed and the nearly 5,800 candidates for the parliament and 34 provincial councils ran as individuals, presenting voters with a bewildering array of names squeezed onto two newspaper-sized ballot papers.
Some of the winners are likely to be warlords accused of atrocities during Afghanistan's decades of civil war, and members of the fundamentalist Taliban regime whose years of brutal rule were ended in a US-led campaign in late 2001.
"There has been no will by the Karzai administration and its international backers to tackle the abuses of the past," Nathan said.
"All along they have been talking about justice and stability and somehow tackling the abuses of the past is seen as a luxury... this has created a false stability."
Nathan said the voter turnout, put at about 53 percent nationally, reflected some disquiet among war-weary Afghans about who was on the ballot. The turnout for the October 2004 election that voted in Karzai was around 67 percent.
Meanwhile: NATO will send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, the 26-nation group's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday, boosting the total in the war-torn country to as high as 15,000.
The expansion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into the volatile southern part of the country "will of course lead to the arrival of certainly a few thousand extra NATO forces," he told reporters.
"I can't give you the exact numbers, but you may say it will be well over 10,000, between 13 and 14, 15,000," he said, and a NATO spokesman in Brussels said he was referring to eventual size of the expanded force.