Adding to Afghan election woes, apparent bribe attempt caught on video

By Joshua Partlow and Habib Zahori
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 4:46 PM

KABUL - An elderly blonde woman in glasses was videotaped apparently soliciting a bribe to manipulate the results of Afghanistan's parliamentary election, in the latest controversy to emerge from an increasingly messy vote.

Two members of the election commission identified the woman as Katona Magda Nasrin, a Hungarian who worked with the Foundation for Afghanistan. The group was registered as an observer with the Independent Election Commission to monitor the Sept. 18 vote.

"What she has done is against the laws of Afghanistan," said election commissioner Zekria Barekzai, adding that the Afghan government, working through its embassy in Hungary, is pursuing the case.

The tape first aired Friday night on the Emrooz television station, and a copy was obtained by The Washington Post. On the broadcast, the woman was identified as working for Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission, which investigates voting fraud. A spokesman for that commission denied she had worked there.

Katona Magda Nasrin could not immediately be reached for comment. In her role as an election monitor, it is unclear what authority she would have to manipulate the vote tally.

"She didn't have anything to do with the result of the election," said Abdullah Ahmadzai, another election commissioner.

The parliamentary election has been marred by many allegations of fraud and corruption. The attorney general's office has already arrested several people allegedly involved in a bribery scheme to rig votes, and President Hamid Karzai's office has suggested a new round of voting might have to take place in certain provinces because of the widespread malfeasance.

In the video, the woman tells an unidentified person that "I will take your complaints to them."

"Give me this right now, but you have to get me more money later," she said. "Yes, even foreigners accept bribes and money."

She said she had already spoken with election commissioners and would get in touch with them again in return for payment.

"I think we agreed on $8,000 and you still have to give the $6,000," she said. "As I said, I will do my best and we have enough time. I think your work will be done by 12 tonight."

She added that "I don't like the mujahedin and warlords. I just hate them," but it was unclear what she was referring to.

Meanwhile, two suicide bombers dressed as policemen killed four officers in an attack on a training center in the eastern province of Paktia, the Reuters news service reported.

Officials said two of the attackers detonated explosives-packed vests inside the compound. Several people were wounded.

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