Page last updated at 23:06 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 00:06 UK

UN defends Afghan election role

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, United Nations

An Afghan election carries a ballot box during the audit process
Fraud allegations have led to an audit of some ballot boxes

The United Nations has again been forced to defend its role in Afghan presidential elections after a US newspaper published voter turnout data.

The data showed evidence of electoral fraud and had been kept confidential by the UN's chief envoy, Kai Eide.

His deputy, Peter Galbraith, has accused him of refusing to reveal the data because it reflects poorly on President Hamid Karzai.

The UN said it was not allowed to make a formal complaint regarding fraud.

The data, published by the Washington Post, shows that in some provinces Hamid Karzai recorded tens of thousands more votes than estimates of the number of people who voted.

The information was gathered by UN field staff, but their boss, Mr Eide, did not hand it over to the bodies investigating fraud.

Senior officials at the UN defended him, stressing that the UN's role was to provide technical assistance for the election, and it was not allowed to formally file complaints of fraud.

The director of Electoral Assistance Division, Department of Political Affairs, Craig Jenness said only Afghan people - including candidates, voters or observers - can file complaints.

"The UN, the European Union, individuals who are not participants in the process have no right to go to the Electoral Complaints Commission, fill out their very specific form, attach their evidence, and ask that the case be adjudicated.

"So when the UN says we didn't submit a complaint, we didn't forward this… that is what we're saying."

However, some of the information had been passed on through informal contacts, officials said.

Personal agenda claim

They urged patience, saying an investigation is underway, and ballot boxes where voter turnout was high were being checked.

Nevertheless, the publication of the data threatens to worsen a credibility crisis not only for the election, but for the United Nations.

The public dispute between Mr Eide and Mr Galbraith has escalated, with a flurry of accusations.

Mr Galbraith has accused his boss of backing Mr Karzai, while the UN officials said Mr Galbraith has a personal agenda.

The UN officials confirmed reports that he had advocated an unconstitutional change of government as a response to evidence of widespread fraud.

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