Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favour of his rival. Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, released an audio recording they said was Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race. Khalili’s and Ghani’s staff dismissed the recording as a fake. Allegations of mass fraud have overshadowed the outcome of the vote, which was meant to be the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history and came before the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of this year. The eight million votes cast in the second round of the election, held in June, are currently being audited under U.N. supervision, according to a deal brokered by the United States.
The audit has also been dogged by delays as Abdullah and Ghani have not been able to agree on some technicalities, such as how to disqualify votes. The recording released on Sunday is the most recent that Abdullah’s campaign alleges is evidence of high-level collusion in an effort to ensure Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank technocrat, is declared the winner.
The speaker allegedly encourages cheating at the highest level of the administration to help Ghani win. “I am aware that in all efforts within the government and within the electoral commissions and with his Excellency the President of Afghanistan there exists an agreeable perception of the victory of this team and this candidate,” the speaker says after referring to one of Ghani’s running mates, Sarwar Danish.