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Galbraith Hits Back: ‘It Is Karzai and His Government That’s The Fraud’

As he attempts to take control of a crucial election-monitoring body ahead of this fall’s parliamentary contest, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave a blustery statement accusing his longtime Western allies and sponsors of trying to prevent the vote by insisting it should be free and fair. Karzai said the West wants “parliament to be weakened and battered, and for me to be an ineffective president and for parliament to be ineffective.” And he got personal, saying former deputy United Nations representative Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador who was fired for urging his boss to take a firmer stand against fraud in last year’s presidential election, was himself a fraud (“the fraud of Galbraith,” as Karzai put it) who threatened the life of an election worker prepared to declare Karzai the outright victor. The poor, unnamed election monitor would be “digging himself an early grave” by reporting Karzai’s success, Karzai accused Galbraith of saying.

Reached for comment, Galbraith mischievously replied, “I sometimes wonder if Karzai is a little too enthusiastic about Afghanistan’s most popular export.”

More seriously, the ambassador denied the accusation flatly. “As to that comment, I don’t talk like that,” Galbraith said. “Second, when I first heard the news this morning I thought that obviously Mr. Karzai is pulling an April Fool’s joke, but then I reflected and realized we don’t have that kind of warm and fuzzy relationship. Needless to say, the U.N. fired me for wanting to do something about the [election] fraud, so it’s a big lie that I was the one who committed it.”

Karzai is trying to convince parliament to respect an edict he issued in February that reserved himself the right to appoint the members of an independent election fraud watchdog, the Electoral Complaints Commission, that presently has the majority of its membership appointed by the United Nations. Parliament’s lower house has already rejected the move, but Karzai is trying to convince the upper house to support him. “We shouldn’t give a goddamn cent to the Afghanistan parliamentary election unless it’s run by Afghans who are nonpartisan and not one of whom is appointed by Karzai,” Galbraith said. “It is Karzai and his government that’s the fraud, not me.”

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