LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain’s foreign secretary said on Friday he had concerns of serious fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election, saying “free and fair” would not be an accurate description of the vote.
Speaking to the BBC, David Miliband said the allegations of fraud needed to be investigated thoroughly, with Britain not willing to be “party to a whitewash”. “The people of Afghanistan as well as the people of Britain need a credible government in Kabul that can actually lead that country in a serious way,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about the reports of widespread fraud and vote-rigging, he said, “Of course. We will not be party to any whitewash when it comes to the election… We have concerns about very serious allegations of fraud.”
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai appears to have won the Aug. 20 election, securing around 54 percent of the vote and therefore removing the need for a second round run-off. However, in some districts he registered up to 96 percent of the vote. His main contender has challenged the outcome and accused Karzai and his backers of stealing the election.
Miliband said “free and fair” — a phrase frequently used by the United Nations and other independent bodies to describe elections that they consider to have been a success — was not a phrase that he would use.
“‘Free and fair’ in a country where there’s a war going on would not be the right description,” he said. “‘Free and fair’ suggests a Western style democracy… millions did vote and we need to make sure that the courage they showed, and the courage our forces showed, is actually matched by a determination to get the real result.”
“If President Karzai won, then he should be the president and there are big responsibilities on him to reach out right across the Afghan political spectrum,” he said.
“But obviously if he didn’t get the 50 percent in the first round then there has to be a second round.”