"KABUL (AP) The outcry over alleged vote fraud in Afghanistan's election escalated Sunday, with President Hamid Karzai's chief opponent charging that turnout figures were padded and the chief fraud investigator saying some of the allegations were serious enough to influence the outcome if true.
"The controversy threatens to discredit an election that the Obama administration considers a key step in a new strategy to turn back the Taliban insurgency. It could also delay formation of a new government and fuel growing doubts in the United States about whether its worth continuing to fight the war in Afghanistan.
"Millions of Afghans voted Thursday in the country's second-ever direct presidential election, although Taliban threats and attacks appeared to hold down the turnout, especially in the south where support for Karzai is strong.
"Final certified results will not come until next month although partial preliminary figures are expected Tuesday. If none of the 36 candidates wins a majority, the top two finishers will face a runoff in October."