Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai acknowledged irregularities in his country's presidential election but defended the process, saying it was "good and fair and worthy of praise, not scorn."
Karzai's comments, made in Kabul Tuesday morning in an interview on ABC television, come as opposition leaders accused the president of tampering with a UN-backed panel investigating charges of massive voter fraud during the Aug. 20 election.
Preliminary results from the election showed Karzai won 54.6 per cent of the vote, enough to win outright without the need for a runoff election.
Allegations of voter fraud on a massive scale have plagued the election, however, and a pending recount could push the margin of Karzai's lead enough to force a runoff vote with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.
The five-member Electoral Complaints Commission looking into the fraud allegations received a blow on Monday, however, when one of the two Afghans on the panel, Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai, resigned. Barakzai said he resigned because the three foreigners on the panel — one American, one Canadian and one Dutch — were "making all decisions on their own."
Resignation a ploy, opposition says
The UN-backed commission, headed by Canadian Grant Kippen, has denied any allegations of improper influence.
The commission has also not received a formal resignation from Barakzai, according to Nellika Little, a spokeswoman for the group.
A spokesman for opposition leader Abdullah said the resignation was a move by Karzai to cast doubt on the recount process.
"Barakzai's resignation has direct connection to Karzai. It was Karzai's idea," Saleh Mohammad Registani said. "Karzai is trying to bring the work of the ECC into question."
Karzai did not respond to the allegations specifically in his interview Tuesday morning, but he cautioned the world not to turn "the election of the Afghan people into the nightmare of the Afghan people."
The results of the commission's findings are expected as early as this week.