Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election got worse on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai in orchestrating fraud in favor of his rival.
Supporters of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah released an audio recording of Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote-rigging in favor of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race.
Khalili and Ghani’s staffs dismissed the recording as a fake.
Allegations of mass fraud have overshadowed the vote’s outcome, 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 the year.
The eight million votes cast in the June election 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.
Abdullah’s team did not say where the speech was delivered, or how the recording was obtained.
Karzai’s office said it had no immediate comment.
Abbas Basir, Khalili’s chief of staff:
“The audio is completely fake … Khalili does not speak like that. Our rival team is resorting to such an act because they are under immense pressures.”
Results from early counting, which was halted by previous allegations by Abdullah of vote rigging, showed Ghani leading substantially.
The auditing process restarted on Sunday after a week-long pause, but without Abdullah’s auditors who boycotted the process. However, after another day of negotiations, his team agreed to resume work on Monday.
The original roadblock, a disagreement over how votes should be invalidated, remained apparently unresolved and diplomats privately worry that it could be months before Karzai’s replacement is known. Afghanistan was previously due to swear in a new president this weekend.
The delay complicates the signing of two agreements that would allow the United States and NATO to maintain a small military presence in Afghanistan for training and counter-insurgency operations.
Karzai has refused to sign the security deals, but both Ghani and Abdullah say they will enact the pacts.