Afghan election observers said they had serious concerns about the legitimacy of this weekend's parliamentary balloting as officials began on Sunday to tally the results — a process that could take months.

The vote holds a chance of redemption for a government that lost much of its credibility both with Afghans and its international backers due to a fraud-tainted presidential election a year ago. But charges that anti-fraud measures broke down mean the vote counting and investigation of complaints will have to be particularly rigorous to guarantee a legitimate outcome.

The country's international backers rallied around the government as polls closed on Saturday, offering praise for those who voted despite bomb and rocket attacks and hoping for a democratic result, but the main Afghan observer group said the quality of the balloting was questionable.

The Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan said it “has serious concerns about the quality of elections”, given the insecurity and numerous complaints of fraud. FEFA, which is an independent group, deployed about 7,000 people around the country, making it the largest observer of the parliamentary vote. At least 21 civilians and nine police officers were killed during the voting, according to the election commission and the Interior Ministry, amid 43 bomb explosions and 78 rocket strikes nationwide. In addition, two pollworkers were kidnapped in northern Balkh province and their bodies were discovered on Sunday.

The election commission has yet to provide an overall turnout figure but said on Sunday at least four million people voted, though they were still waiting for reports from some voting centres. That puts turnout at least 24 per cent of the country's 17 million registered voters.

Throughout Saturday's balloting, complaints that anti-fraud measures were being ignored or were not working poured in from across the country. People said the indelible ink that was supposed to stain voters' fingers for 72 hours could be washed off.

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