The top United Nations official in Afghanistan has acknowledged there
was significant and widespread fraud in the controversial presidential
election held in August.
Kai Eide spoke to reporters in Kabul Sunday to rebut accusations by his former deputy, Peter Galbraith, that he had suppressed evidence of election fraud. The Norwegian diplomat complained that allegations by Galbraith, who uis an American, undermined confidence in the Afghan election process and weakened the U.N. mission's credibility.
Despite Eide's comments about the extent of fraud in the Afghan election, he said he does not know how many ballots were illegitimate. European monitors have said that up to 30 percent of the vote could be tainted.
The United Nations is supporting an investigation by Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission, which is due to report this week on its examination of suspicious ballots.
The commission could either confirm President Hamid Karzai as the victor, or - if a large share of Karzai's votes are found to be fraudulent - order a run-off between the president and his leading challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Based on preliminary results reported earlier, Mr. Karzai is said to be leading with 54 percent of the vote, well ahead of Mr. Abdullah, at 28 percent.
Galbraith has said data gathered by U.N. workers showed that most of the illegitimate ballots that wound up being counted were marked in favor of Mr. Karzai, and he accused Eide of favoritism toward the president.
After the American's dispute with Eide became public, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired Galbraith (on September 30).
Galbraith said he was astonished that the United Nations would dismiss an official because he was concerned about fraud in an election supported and funded by the U.N., but that he could not be complicit in a cover-up of fraud.