News / Asia

Afghan President Considers Allowing Foreigners on Election Commission

Afghan President Hamid Karzai raised the possibility Saturday that he might appoint foreigners to the country's Electoral Complaints Commission.  Last month, Mr. Karzai issued a decree that gave himself full authority to appoint members of the group, saying he wanted to "Afghanize" it.  The international community had mixed reactions to the decree, with some governments questioning whether the commission could be neutral without outside oversight.  

Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar says there is a possibility that the Afghan president might allow two foreigners on the national Electoral Complaints Commission.

But the spokesman said this is an exception because President Karzai is in the process of a so-called "Afghanization" of the election process.

In February, Mr. Karzai issued a decree that overruled a law allowing the United Nations to appoint three of the five commission members.  Mr. Karzai said he wanted to "Afghanize" the commission by appointing all Afghan nationals.

Susan Manuel is a spokeswoman for the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.  She tells VOA that it is important that the reforms agreed to between the United Nations and Afghan government are carried out for the parliamentary elections later this year. "We retain our commitment to the Afghans that they run their own elections, [and] they run their own country.  There were just certain reforms, including the composition of the ECC , that had been agreed to and it appeared that President Karzai had altered a bit the commitments that he had made," she said.

Some Western diplomats have expressed concern that giving Mr. Karzai total control over the ECC will undermine the fairness of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Jandad Spinghar is the executive director for the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan.  He tells VOA that the outside appointment of some of the commission's members give it more credibility.

He points particularly to the debate surrounding the country's Independent Election Commission, which oversees the country's election process.  "The existence of the international [community] will be very important otherwise no one will trust the ECC as well like they didn't trust the IEC," he said.

According to the Afghan constitution, the president can appoint all members of the IEC.

During last year's fraud-marred presidential election, there was debate both inside and outside the country over whether the president could have an unfair hold over the IEC.

Spinghar says he agrees with President Karzai's push for Afghanization in the country's institutions, including the ECC.  But he says it is important that this is an open and legitimate process. "The legal framework should [be] used for [the] Afghanization process which can guarantee the independency of the organization and also guarantee the professional action of the organization," he said.

The ECC played a high-profile role in last year's presidential election, when it threw out one-third of the votes cast for Mr. Karzai because they were fraudulent.

This forced a second round of voting, but Afghan authorities cancelled the runoff election when President Karzai's only challenger withdrew from the race, handing Mr. Karzai a second term.

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