Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he has reluctantly accepted a U.S.-mediated deal to audit all the votes from the country's presidential runoff election, following allegations of fraud during the voting process.
In an exclusive interview with VOA's Afghan Service, President Karzai said he did not welcome the agreement, but accepted it as a "bitter pill" due to the current political conditions in Afghanistan.
"I accepted it because I wanted to get past this stage very quickly because the elections have already taken a lot of time in this country. No country in the world has such a lengthy electoral process and this must be corrected as well. The Afghan people are waiting, very much, very impatiently, to have their new president," said Karzai.
Tensions were high in the country after presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, both claimed victory in the June 14 runoff to replace Karzai.
Former Afghan foreign minister Abdullah dismissed the runoff results that put Ghani ahead by one million votes as tainted with irregularities. He accused Ghani, election authorities and President Karzai of colluding against him to rig the vote.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kabul and held hours of intense negotiations with Ghani and Abdullah on July 12, and both candidates agreed to a U.N.-supervised audit of the eight million ballots.
According to the deal, the new president will immediately form a government of national unity. A senior U.S. official said whatever the outcome of the election audit, the candidate who does not emerge as winner will play a formal role in the new Afghan government.
President Karzai says he welcomed the idea of a national unity government, saying all Afghan people should see themselves in their government. But he was more cautious about reports the candidates agreed to create a parliamentary democracy.
"In order for Afghanistan to have a parliamentary form of government, we must, before that, make sure we have strong institutions, the civil service of the country must be totally apolitical and protected by law," he said.
Karzai said institutions like the military and judiciary should also be protected from political intervention. He said Afghanistan still needs time to strengthen these institutions in order to move from a presidential to parliamentary system.
As Afghanistan undergoes this transition and his decade in office nears its end, Karzai says that whatever the outcome, he will stand firmly behind the next leader of Afghanistan.
"If ever the next Afghan president or the next government would ask me for advice, I would humbly come and provide that advice. I will be trying my best to be a factor of help, assistance and stability," said Karzai.
And when VOA asked if Karzai could go back and change one aspect of his presidency, he declined to reveal the "massive change" he would make, noting that he is still president of Afghanistan and must choose his words cautiously.
Read the full transcript of the interview here.