The Independent Election Commission's (IEC) Secretariat Chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, announced his resignation on live television Monday afternoon.
The announcement came just a day after presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah released phone recordings of conversations allegedly between Amarkhail and members of the campaign team of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. The recordings suggest a broad plot to conduct fraud during the runoff election, however, the identities of the voices on them have yet to be confirmed.
Announcing his resignation at a press conference alongside IEC Chairman Ahmed Yousuf Nuristani, Amarkhail claimed his decision was not forced and was not made in light of the recordings. He claimed the phone taps were fake and that he had never had the conversations.
"I have not resigned under the pressure of anyone," Amarkhail said. "I have only resigned for the sake of the process and national interests."
Amarkhail "strongly rejected" the accusations against him, and said there had been a longstanding conspiracy to try to oust him from the IEC. He claimed he had rejected many bribes and offers for positions over the course of the past year.
Nuristani expressed support for Amarkhail and said the commission regretted his resignation. He affirmed his belief that Amarkhail is an honest, talented "patriot".
Meanwhile, at his own press conference, Abdullah responded positively to the announcement of Amarkhail's resignation. But he remained vague about exactly how he would move forward in terms of his relationship with the IEC.
Abdullah said Amarkhail's resignation "opened the door" to discussions with the IEC about his rejoining the formal election process. Abdullah withdrew his observers from the commission's offices and called for the vote counting process to be halted last week.
Abdullah did articulate two preconditions: that the IEC admit less than seven million voters participated in the runoff and that there be transparency in the vote counting process.
Abdullah denied that his demands, including the one that Amarkhail be suspended, were a strategy of exerting power over the process. He said his only concern was the integrity of the election.