Vote fraud significant: UN envoy

KABUL: The UN’s special representative to Afghanistan acknowledged today for the first time that the country’s presidential election had been tainted by “significant” and “widespread” fraud.

Kai Eide at a news conference said the United Nations supported vote fraud investigations which are under way and due to be completed, and a final result announced, in days.

The elections, held on August 20, have been overshadowed

by the fraud allegations,

mostly aimed at President Hamid Karzai.

Eide’s decision to hold a news conference reflected the damage the row with Galbraith, his deputy, has done to the credibility of the UN as the election’s organiser and funder.

Karzai leads preliminary results with about 55 per cent of the vote, against his nearest

rival Abdullah Abdullah, who is on 28 per cent.

“It is true that in a number of polling stations in the south and the southeast there was significant fraud,” Eide said.

“The extent of that fraud is now being determined,” he said, referring to investigations by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and an audit of suspicious ballot boxes by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) last week.

“It has been claimed that there was 30 per cent fraud. There is no way to know at this stage what the level of fraud is.

“No one knows. I can only say there was widespread fraud,” he said.

Eide called the media conference to answer accusations by Galbraith — who was dismissed last month after a row with his boss over the fraud issue — that he tried to conceal information about the extent of the fraud.

He was flanked by the ambassadors to Kabul from the United States, Britain and France, with the German ambassador, the European Union’s special representative to Afghanistan, and a NATO representative also in attendance.

None of the ambassadors made any comment, and

reporters were not permitted to ask them questions.

The EU presidency, currently held by Sweden, issued a statement saying the EU “stands firmly behind” Eide.

Visibly angry, Eide said: “Some of these allegations were based on private conversation whilst he (Galbraith) was a guest in my house.

“My view is that private conversations around a dinner table in my house remain just that, private,” he said.

Galbraith was sacked by UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and immediately went on the offensive, saying the decision sent a

“terrible signal” about the

commitment of the UN to a fraud-free election.

Differences between the two men began before the poll when Galbraith wanted to eliminate “ghost” polling centres that posed a risk of fraud as they were too insecure to open on election day.

When fraud evidence became “very extensive,” he said — citing high vote numbers from regions where turnout was known to be low — Eide would not allow the information to be disseminated even to ambassadors based in Kabul.

Galbraith also said that 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent, echoing findings by EU election monitors that about 1.5 million votes in total — and 1.1 million for Karzai — were suspicious.

Eide said the UN mandate in Afghanistan “is to support the process, not influence the


Abdullah, who has been loudest in accusing Karzai of ballot-stuffing, separately told AFP that he was “convinced about the transparency” of the IEC audit and ECC


But he said he believed the investigations would result in a run-off between him and Karzai.

Electoral officials have said that if a run-off is necessary, it must be held immediately, as many parts of the mountainous country will soon be rendered impassable by winter snows.

The controversy surrounding Eide and Galbraith comes as US President Barack Obama is considering boosting US troops in Afghanistan, where more than 100,000 troops under US and NATO are battling a virulent Taliban insurgency.

Afghan and US forces killed 16 insurgents Sunday in an operation in the east of the country, also arresting a suspected Al-Qaeda fighter, NATO and Afghan police said.

NATO said a US soldier was killed by a remote-controlled bomb on Saturday in western Afghanistan.

So far in 2009, 408 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan, 242 of them American, according to an AFP count based on a running tally kept by the independent website