KABUL – Afghanistan's president defended the integrity of last month's election Thursday, but said some government officials "were partial toward me."
The statement appeared to be President Hamid Karzai's first public acknowledgment of fraud by his supporters during the Aug. 20 vote and its aftermath.
He spoke to reporters on the day after full preliminary results showed him with a 54 percent of the vote, comfortably above the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff with leading challenger Abdullah Abdullah.
Widespread reports of fraud still need to be investigated before results are finalized, and observers have said enough votes are questionable that Karzai could still be forced into a runoff with Abdullah.
Thousands of fake ballots were submitted across the country, and returns showed Karzai winning 100 percent of the vote in some districts. The most serious complaints were lodged in southern Afghanistan. A U.N.-backed commission that is the final arbiter on fraud has ordered a recount of about 10 percent of polling stations countrywide because of suspicious results and has already thrown out results from 83 stations because of "clear and compelling" evidence of fraud.
Karzai held back from declaring victory Thursday, talking only of plans he will implement "if I am declared president."
Karzai and Abdullah's camps have both accused the other of ballot-box stuffing to pad their results, and both have called for thorough investigations.
"There were government officials who on both sides who were partial. There were some government officials who were partial toward me, very, very much. There were other government officials who were partial toward Dr. Abdullah very, very much," Karzai said.
However, he defended the overall procedure.
"I believe firmly in the integrity of the election, in the integrity of the Afghan people and in the integrity of the government in that process," he said.