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The U.N. secretary-general says having learned "valuable and painful"
lessons from the widespread fraud that plagued the first round of
Afghanistan's presidential elections, the United Nations would do its
best to assist the Afghan people in having a credible and free second
round. But Ban Ki-moon warned that it will be a "huge challenge" to
hold the runoff on November 7.
Mr. Ban welcomed President Hamid
Karzai's announcement Tuesday that he would accept a runoff with his
closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, after the U.N.-backed audit of the
August 20 vote found nearly a quarter of all votes were fraudulent and
had to be thrown out.
"I am very much pleased that Afghan
leadership, President Karzai, has agreed to respect the result of this
Independent Election Commission, as well as Electoral Complaint
Commission, as has been agreed before and in accordance with the
constitutional process," he said.
Mr. Karzai originally received
some 54 percent of the votes cast. But the U.N.-backed Electoral
Complaints Commission examined more than 2,500 allegations of fraud -
including phantom polling stations, ballot-stuffing and police
intimidation - and declared a third of Mr. Karzai's ballots invalid,
reversing his outright victory.
The election results were
further complicated by infighting among U.N. representatives in
Afghanistan. The chief of the U.N. mission there, Kai Eide, did not
acknowledge that there was "widespread fraud" until recently. But his
deputy, Peter Galbraith, raised the allegation sooner, and was
dismissed from his post by the secretary-general.
Mr. Ban said
there is a "huge challenge" in conducting a runoff election only 18
days from now. He said the United Nations would provide all the
necessary administrative, technical and logistical support to the
Afghans, as it did for the first round, and would work with the
Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Election Commission
to make the second round transparent and credible.
learned lessons from the first elections that there was widespread
fraud, irregularities and fraudulence, we will try our best in close
coordination with Afghan leadership and Afghan institutions and other
international major partners to make this election as fair and free of
fraudulence," said the U.N. chief.
He added that the second round must not be a repeat of the first.
Afghanistan, Mr. Ban's special representative, Kai Eide, told reporters
that his approach to the elections has always been one of respect for
the Afghan constitution and the other institutions that were put in
place to move the election process forward. He said those institutions
functioned as they should and that is what has led to the runoff