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Urgency of Finalizing Electoral Laws

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Recently, the parliament of Afghanistan took steps forward in approving the law on the authority and structure of the Independent Election Commission. But now opposition parties say that President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the law. On Tuesday, an opposition alliance alleged the president was seeking to delay signing the law and hold the next year’s Presidential and provincial council elections based on a decree as previous elections. Fazlur Rahman Orya, a member of the alliance said it would against the law and democratic values if President Karzai seeks to hold the elections based on legislative decree.

The law on

Nearly four months ago, the lower house of the parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, approved the law on the structure, duties and powers of the independent election commission, but it was rejected by the upper house of the parliament, the Mishrano Jirga. The Mishrano Jirga suggested amendments to two of its articles related to membership of two foreigners in the ECC and make-up of the committee that will select commissioners of the Independent Election Commission. For months, the two houses couldn’t reach an agreement on the bill which was considered crucial for arrangements of a fair and free election.

The stalemate over amendments to the laws on structure, duties and powers of the election commissions had sparked concerns about the presidential election that is going to be held next year. As the law is passed by the National Assembly, it is facing further delays by President Karzai to be signed into law. Signing of the law is considered as crucial for the next elections as it paves the way for a fair and free election with broad consensus among the political parties in the country.

With the 2014 presidential election in sight, Afghan government and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) are running out of time in preparations for the key election which would determine the future course of Afghanistan. Further delay in signing the law would also directly affect the readiness of the election bodies and their preparations for holding a fair and transparent election. The voter registration is incomplete, facing many technical challenges.

The bill limits government’s direct role in appointing the chairperson and commissioners of the ICC and Karzai’s influence on the election commissions. According to the new law, the head and commissioners of the IEC would be selected by a committee comprised of lawmakers, representatives from political parties, academics and civil organizations. The opposition parties believe, this is the main reason for Karzai’s delay in signing the law on the authority and structure of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Election Complaints Commission (ECC).

It is expected that this procedure, on one hand, would build a national consensus to the management of the election process and structure of the election bodies. On the other hand, it is expected that it would efficiently curb the influence of the government on the electoral bodies and prevent manipulating the election process. The law needed to be signed as quickly as possible, since it’s needed urgently for the election commission to proceed with praprations for a free and fair presidential election next year.

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