Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday sought to bring the nation’s year-long political stalemate to an end, ordering the unseating of nine of the parliament’s 249 lawmakers for electoral fraud. The decision was meant to defuse a feud between President Hamid Karzai and the parliament stretching back to last September’s fraud-riddled legislative elections.
Mr. Karzai, who decried the parliament’s makeup as unrepresentative because of the fraud, paved the way for Sunday’s announcement earlier this month. Then, acting under strong international pressure, he dissolved a special elections court and recognized the Independent Election Commission’s authority to rule on the issue.
The special court, filled with judges appointed by Mr. Karzai, had been widely viewed as an attempt by the president to change the election results and dilute the increased power of his rivals. The court had called for the replacement of 62 of the parliament’s members.
Afghanistan’s parliament has been able to do little business over the past year as a result of the stalemate.
There was no immediate sign that the crisis has ended. Parliament leaders, dissatisfied politicians and affected lawmakers all vowed to defy Sunday’s IEC decision.
“I think there are some people in the presidential palace, I mean advisers, who play with law like a child playing with a toy,” said Ahmad Behzad, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament. Mr. Behzad said parliament leaders had agreed to stand with the sitting parliament members and wouldn’t swear in the nine replacement candidates listed in the IEC order.
“Changes are not acceptable by us and we are not ready to swear [in] and replace MPs, if it is one or more,” he said.
While Mr. Behzad thought that replacing nine lawmakers is excessive, Daoud Sultanzoi, a former parliament member from Ghazni province, rejected Sunday’s IEC ruling as not going far enough.
Mr. Sultanzoi, who lost his parliament seat in the election, called Sunday’s decision a “joke” and urged Mr. Karzai to step in again to ensure that all 62 candidates, including himself, can take seats in parliament, replacing the lawmakers who had been ordered ejected by the special court.