Karzai defends integrity of Afghan elections

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been accused of rigging the August 20 election by his chief rival.
President Hamid Karzai on Thursday rejected widespread allegations of massive fraud in last month’s elections and said he was awaiting the results of investigations conducted by Afghanistan’s electoral bodies.

“Let’s find out exactly if there was the kind of fraud committed that was reported in the international press,” said Karzai, who appears on track to win another term in office. “I believe firmly, firmly in the integrity of the election, in the integrity of the Afghan people and in the integrity of the government in this process,” he said. At a news conference Thursday, he called international media coverage of the elections “overwhelmingly negative” and said the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission should be allowed to conduct their investigations fairly and without foreign meddling. Karzai secured more than 54 percent of the vote in the troubled August 20 election, according to the final uncertified results announced Wednesday. But the results won’t be certified until investigations of election irregularities are completed. Karzai acknowledged that some government officials were “partial” to his candidacy, but said there were others who supported his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah. He said such partiality was expected until Afghanistan realizes more stability. A presidential candidate in Afghanistan needs 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff. There were 5,662,758 valid votes, and voter turnout was over 38 percent, according to the election commission. That was a low turnout, especially when compared with the 70 percent in the previous presidential election in 2004.

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Taliban insurgents had warned Afghans not to vote, threatening them with violence, in an effort to discredit the electoral process. Karzai lauded the bravery of Afghans who ventured out to cast a ballot, despite the security risks. More than 200,000 votes have been thrown out, including 29,000 in a swath of Afghanistan where Karzai has much support — Paktika, Ghazni and Kandahar provinces. Hours before the final results were announced, European Union election observers said they found that more than 1.5 million votes cast in the election were suspicious — 1.1 million of them for Karzai. An additional 300,000 of them were cast for Abdullah and 92,000 for another candidate, Ramazan Bashardost, according to the observers. Karzai blasted the European Union observer team for announcing their findings, saying that it was “irresponsible and in contradiction with Afghanistan’s constitution.” “According to the constitution of Afghanistan, addressing the electoral complaints is the responsibility of the Election Complaints Commission,” a statement from Karzai’s campaign team said.