Afghan commission attempts to remove 9 legislators after protracted debate about electoral fraud

August 21, 2011

An Afghan election commission announced Sunday that nine legislators won their seats by fraud last year and ordered them removed from parliament.

If observed, the ruling would put an end to a months-long political feud that has pit a large faction of the country’s legislature against President Hamid Karzai, deepening Kabul’s political paralysis.

Afghan officials have long been convinced that the results of last year’s parliamentary elections were manipulated by pervasive fraud. But there has been a bitter debate over which politicians were involved in those misdeeds, and which entity should be charged with the investigation.

The Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) was given that charge only after a Karzai-backed tribunal, which declared that 62 guilty legislators would be unseated, was rejected by lawmakers and eventually dissolved with a presidential decree. Earlier this month, Karzai handed over responsibility to the IEC.

“Today we made a very difficult decision to end the unfortunate problems that have prevented our nation from doing important work,” said Fazil Ahmad Manawi, IEC chairman. “This is the end to the crisis.”

That crisis coincides with a critical period for the country’s government—just as top politicians attempt to prove they can maintain democracy and stability in Afghanistan after the departure of foreign troops.

Because it affects a much smaller fraction of the 249-member Afghan parliament, the election commission’s decision could be more politically palatable than the tribunal’s ruling. But many here say that it is too late to reverse the dysfunction caused by a protracted disagreement over election results. The group of legislators in question took office nearly eight months ago, and the parliament has been gridlocked since then.

The election commission Sunday named both the nine politicians who would be unseated and their replacements—men and women from provinces across the country. Several of those asked to step down expressed no intention of bowing to the commission’s demands.

“Nobody can make us step down,” said Shakir Kargar, who represents Herat province. “If they force me to step down, I will struggle for my rights until the end of my life.”

As happened after the tribunal’s decision, legislators and their supporters are already talking about possible protests and other ways to discredit the election commission.

“The commission has made some kind of compromise—they have unseated people with clear support and replaced them with those who have power and connections,” said Hajji Abdul Qadir, a legislator slated to lose his seat, who represents Paktika province.

Kevin Sieff has been The Post’s bureau chief in Afghanistan since 2012. He served previously as an education reporter in Washington, and had covered the U.S. -Mexico border.
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