June 26, 2014 5:53 AM EDT

Fraud Allegations Threaten Outcome Of Afghan Election

Accusations of fraud have cast a dark shadow over the Afghan presidential election, threatening what is meant to be the country’s first peaceful transition of power since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

On June 23, Afghanistan’s top election official, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, resigned after being accused of vote rigging by one of the two candidates vying to replace Hamid Karzai as President. His exit came less than a week after Abdullah Abdullah, an ex–Foreign Minister, said he would reject the election commission’s results because of what he claimed was an attempt to manipulate the outcome in favor of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani. A day before Amarkhil’s resignation, the Abdullah campaign released recordings of phone conversations in which the election official allegedly talked about stuffing ballot boxes.

A favorite to succeed Karzai, Abdullah led the field in the first round of voting in April but failed to get a clear majority. A second round, in which Abdullah faced off against Ghani, took place in early June, with the results due on July 22.

Although Abdullah might now rejoin the race, the allegations of fraud have spawned protests and fueled ethnic tensions between supporters of the two candidates. Ghani, a former Finance Minister, is Pashtun, while Abdullah draws his support from the rival Tajik community. Each candidate said that if he won, he would sign a bilateral security deal with the U.S. to keep a small contingent of American troops in the country after 2014. Karzai has refused to endorse the deal.

But first there must be a transfer of power that is acceptable to both sides. The taint of impropriety, if it sticks, could trigger violence just as most foreign troops prepare to leave Afghanistan at the end of the year.

POLAND

‘The Polish-American alliance is worthless, even harmful, as it gives Poland a false sense of security. It’s bullsh-t.’

RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, Polish Foreign Minister, during an alleged recording of a conversation with a former Finance Minister that was leaked to a local magazine, which published excerpts on June 22–less than three weeks after President Barack Obama visited the country

DATA

GLOBAL HEALTH CARE

The Commonwealth Fund ranked health care systems in 11 wealthy nations according to criteria such as quality and access. Below, a sampling of the rankings:

1 U.K.

3 Sweden

5 Germany

9 France

11 U.S.

THREE ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT

Hong Kong’s ‘Illegal’ Vote for Democracy

More than 700,000 Hong Kong residents–about 10% of the population–voted online and at polling stations in the early stages of an unofficial 10-day referendum on electoral reform that began on June 20. City authorities said they would not acknowledge the results of the exercise, while Beijing dismissed the poll as a joke.

THE BACKGROUND

An ex–British colony that reverted to Chinese control in 1997, Hong Kong operates semiautonomously, with its citizens enjoying more freedom than their counterparts on the Chinese mainland. But many are worried about Beijing’s growing influence on the city’s affairs.

THE BALLOT

Organized by a protest group to rally support for pro-democracy reform and preserve the city’s autonomy, the referendum asks locals to choose among three proposals for changing the way Hong Kong selects its leader, the chief executive. All three involve a vote for candidates proposed by the public. The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the candidates should be vetted by a nomination committee.

WHAT’S NEXT

The group behind the vote has threatened to organize protests if authorities don’t meet its demands. But those in power show little sign of listening, and the state-run paper Global Times labeled the poll an “illegal farce.”

Not Amused

NORTHERN IRELAND

Queen Elizabeth II tours the Belfast set of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones on June 24. The 88-year-old British monarch met the show’s cast and crew and inspected many of the props featured in the series, including the Iron Throne, above. Her visit to the set was part of a three-day tour of Northern Ireland, during which she praised the unity government forged by Protestants and Catholics in 2007.

THE EXPLAINER

The Mysterious ‘Magic Island’ on One of Saturn’s Moons

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is one of the solar system’s most remarkable satellites, and the appearance on it of a new landmass has made it more intriguing still.

The Background

Titan, like Earth, has oceans and seas, but at -290˚F (-179˚C), they’re filled with liquid methane and ethane, not water. Their existence was long suspected but wasn’t proved until NASA’s Cassini probe began orbiting Saturn in 2004.

The Discovery

During its flybys of Titan, Cassini conducted radar scans of Ligeia Mare, the moon’s northern sea. The images revealed what looked like an island that was present in 2013 and not at other times.

What It Means

The Internet labeled the discovery a magic island, but it’s likely the result of turbulence in the sea as Titan’s summer approaches, with changing levels revealing and swamping the island.

WORLD

51 MILLION

Number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people in 2013, according to the U.N.–the most since World War II. Afghans, Syrians and Somalis made up more than half the global refugee population

Trending In

+

NEGOTIATIONS

Thousands of South African miners agreed to a wage deal with the country’s largest mining firms, ending a five-month strike

JUSTICE

The Mexican army captured Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, the leader of the once powerful Tijuana drug cartel. The government offered a $2.3 million reward for tips leading to his arrest

SPORTS

Uruguayan soccer player Luis Suárez appeared to bite the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup match, which Uruguay won 1-0

TERRORISM

Suspected Boko Haram militants abducted at least 90 people in Nigeria, two months after they kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls

This appears in the July 07, 2014 issue of TIME.

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