Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has made a decision that aims to bring to a close nearly a year of drama and conflict following the country’s parliamentary election last fall. On Sunday, the IEC said it would remove nine of the 62 sitting members of parliament a special court ruled should lose their seats due to electoral fraud.
The decision is meant to be a final step in closing a dispute between President Hamid Karzai and the parliament that paralyzed the legislature and caused a constitutional crisis. Many of those losing their seats, however, say they will not accept the decision which may cause the electoral turmoil to drag on even longer. Among many Afghans, today’s attempted resolution for this standoff will do little to restore the government’s image, marred by its inability to efficiently find a solution and hold elections without widespread fraud and corruption.
“I blame the president for this whole mess. The president made a big mistake by bringing corrupt people to the election commission and the election complaints commission,” says Mohammad Musa Farewar, a professor of political science at Kabul University. “Today’s announcement is probably a deal or a compromise that was made behind closed doors. The complaints were not addressed as they should have been and now this problem is getting more complicated.”
Afghanistan went to the polls to elect members of parliament on Sept. 18 last year. Before the polls had even closed, there were allegations of widespread fraud. Mr. Karzai tried to delay the seating of the parliament while a special court investigated electoral corruption and eventually agreed to a compromise that saw the legislators seated in the end of January.
A number of losing candidates continued to protest even after the parliament began session. The situation came to a head when a special court appointed by Karzai to investigate voting irregularities – and that the IEC branded as illegal – invalidated the election of 62 members of parliament who’d been in office for five months.
The decision was met by massive parliamentary protest and sparked a government crisis as Karzai, the parliament, and the courts turned against each other. Some involved accused Karzai of trying to expel his opponents from the parliament and replace them with his supporters. However, after Karzai recently referred the final decision to the IEC, the dispute appeared to be headed toward its end.