Karzai accuses UN of election interference

Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashes out at the UN and international community, accusing them of interfering in 2009's fraud-tarnished presidential election.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at the UN and international community Thursday, accusing them of interfering in 2009's fraud-tarnished presidential election.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivers a speech at the Election Commission office in Kabul on Thursday. ((Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press))

He also accused them of trying to weaken his authority after parliament rejected his bid to expand his control over Afghanistan's electoral institutions.

Although he did not specifically mention the United States, Karzai's harsh words — and his practice of blaming foreigners for the nation's problems — reflect his increasingly difficult relations with Washington and its international allies.

Karzai's international stature was battered last year after a UN-backed watchdog committee threw out nearly a third of his votes in the Aug. 20 presidential election, denying him a first-round victory and forcing him into a runoff, which was cancelled after his remaining challenger dropped out.

Karzai's comments, delivered to employees of the state election commission, also sharpened the power struggle with an increasingly independent-minded parliament over whether foreigners will help oversee parliamentary balloting scheduled for September.

On Wednesday, the lower house of parliament cancelled a decree Karzai issued in February revoking the authority of the UN to appoint most of the members of the election fraud commission that threw out his ballots last year.

Karzai claims vast fraud

During his speech Thursday, Karzai acknowledged there had been "vast fraud" in the August vote, which returned him to office for a second, five-year term. But he blamed the fraud on the UN and other foreign organizations, which he suggested were part of an international conspiracy to deny him re-election or tarnish his victory.

Chairman of the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, Grant Kippen, gestures during an interview with reporters in Kabul in October 2009. ((Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press))
"No doubt, there was huge fraud. There was vast fraud. The fraud is not by the Afghans. This fraud has been done by the foreigners," Karzai said, including officials of the UN, the European Union and "the embassies here in Kabul."

Grant Kippen, the Canadian who ran the watchdog Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) last year, said if Karzai has evidence of impropriety in the August vote, "either Afghan or international," then he has a responsibility "to back this claim up with evidence."

"I would strongly suggest that efforts now concentrate on addressing the problems that were evident in last year's elections and that practical solutions be found that will strengthen the process going forward so that public trust and confidence can be restored," Kippen told The Associated Press in an email.

Karzai accused unidentified foreign embassies of trying to bribe members of the Karzai-appointed Independent Election Commission with offers of bulletproof cars in hopes they would block his first-round victory.

UN deputy chief singled out

Karzai singled out the former UN deputy chief in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, and the chief European Union observer, retired French Gen. Philippe Morillon, accusing them of pressuring election authorities. Galbraith, the senior American in the UN mission in Kabul, was fired last year after accusing his boss, Kai Eide, of downplaying election fraud.

"What this really suggests is that Karzai has a slim connection with reality," Galbraith told The Associated Press by telephone from Rome. "I think it underscores the importance that the upcoming parliamentary elections should be run by nonpartisan election bodies with no Karzai appointees."

"Frankly, I think Karzai is a bit unhinged," he added.

Karzai also said foreigners were looking for excuses not to help fund the September election because they "want a parliament that is weak and for me to be an ineffective president."