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Updated: October 13, 2009 19:16 IST

Karzai staunchly defends Afghan election balloting

AP
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A file photo of Hamid Karzai
The Hindu A file photo of Hamid Karzai

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday acknowledged irregularities in the Aug. 20 presidential election while arguing it was “good and fair and worthy of praise, not scorn.”

Interviewed from Kabul on ABC television, Mr. Karzai declined to insert himself publicly in the current Obama administration internal debate over possible changes in war policy. But he did say he’s “fully behind” U.S. commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who reportedly has told President Barack Obama that as many as 40,000 additional forces are needed.

“I have seen Gen. McChrystal’s report,” Mr. Karzai said. “I am not a military expert. ... What I’m concerned about is the protection of the Afghan people.”

Questioned repeatedly about allegations of widespread corruption in the Aug. 20 election, Mr. Karzai said international criticism of the balloting “makes me angry.” But he conceded “irregularities” at the same time. The international community should not turn the election into “the nightmare of the Afghan people,” Mr. Karzai told ABC.

Preliminary results show that Karzai won with 54.6 percent. A five-member United Nations-backed panel is investigating charges of corruption in the election, and its decision on how many votes to throw out will determine whether Mr. Karzai wins outright or if a runoff with top challenger Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, will be required.

New charges have flared this week amid the resignation of a chief fraud investigator. One of the two Afghans on the Electoral Complaints Commission, Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai, resigned on Monday because, he said, the three foreigners on the commission were “making all the decisions on their own.”

Of the election in general, Mr. Karzai said that some statements criticizing the balloting and vote count were “totally fabricated.”

“There were instances of fraud, no doubt. There were irregularities,” he said. “But the election as a whole was good and free and democratic.”

Mr. Karzai said Barakzai’s resignation has cast doubt on the functioning of the commission and said officials should “do everything now to remove those suspicions and to remove any of the stigmas and to prove that it is impartial and not dictated from outside.”

“As you have debates in America, you have problems in America, as you have corruption in America, we have them too in Afghanistan,” he said, “but on a much larger scale because our country is underdeveloped and devastated by years of war.”

Asked if he was suggesting the U.S. election system is insecure, Mr. Karzai replied, “No, I’m talking of the existence of issues in governments and the way to handle them.”

“Afghanistan has its separate problems and we have to handle them as Afghanistan finds it feasible,” he said. “This country was completely destroyed ... Today, we are talking about fighting corruption in Afghanistan, improved legal standards ... You see the glass half empty or half full. I see it as half full. Others see it as half empty.”

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