Afghanistan

Karzai Defends Election, Runoff

International pressure may have convinced Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, to hold a runoff vote in his country's disputed election, but it wasn't enough to convince him the initial vote was flawed. After widespread claims of fraud in the first race, Karzai told CNN that he almost believed the allegations—but shortly before his decision to call a runoff he became "convinced that all that was said was mostly wrong" and that despite "some instances of fraud...the nation as a whole was clean and the result was clear." Nonetheless, he said that avoiding a runoff "would be insulting democracy." He blamed irregularities in the first vote, which initially showed a 54% victory for Karzai before being called into question by international election monitors, on Afghanistan's weak federal institutions. "We have to understand that, and we have to accept the Afghan elections in the context of the Afghan situation and the poverty and lack of means in this country," Karzai said.