Afghanistan: Election Chairman Warns About Security | Wall Street Journal

The precarious security situation in Afghanistan poses the main risk to the historic presidential vote set for next April and could make holding the election “difficult” if it gets worse, the new chairman of the country’s election commission said. While U.S. and Afghan military commanders paint an optimistic picture of their achievements against the Taliban, Independent Election Commission chief Yusuf Nuristani said that insurgent violence remains his key preoccupation amid preparations for the vote. “The main challenge for everyone is the security issue,” Mr. Nuristani, who served as deputy defense minister and governor of Herat province under President Hamid Karzai, said in his first interview with the international press since assuming the job this month. “If the security issue deteriorates, it will be difficult to hold elections.”

Afghanistan: Karzai endorses election commission formation, duties and authorities | Khaama Press

Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Wednesday endorsed the Afghanistan election commission formation, duties and authorities. Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Afghan parliament house speaker on Wednesday said that president Hamid Karzai has assured regarding the endorsement of the election commission formation, duties and authorities following a telephone conversation. The parliament of Afghanistan on Monday approved the bill for Afghanistan election law following controversies which continued for several days. The law was approved by joint parliamentarian commissions after differences were resolved in the committee and was sent to president Hamid Karzai for endorsement.

Afghanistan: Election Commission begins voter registration for 2014 polls | The Hindu

Afghanistan started voter registration on Sunday, in preparation for next year’s presidential polls, an election commission official said. “We started voter registration this morning in 41 different registration centres across the country in all of 34 provinces so that Afghans can use their given right to vote,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Election Commission. “It is going on well. In Kabul, there are three centres. We don’t have exact figures on the turnout, but initial reports say that the participation in registration process is encouraging,” he added. Registration will continue until two weeks before election day, slated for April 5, 2014, the commission said.

Afghanistan: Afghan Presidential Poll Is Set for 2014 |

Afghanistan’s election commission on Tuesday set the country’s next presidential election for April 5, 2014, kicking off a race that would choose Hamid Karzai’s successor and unfold as U.S.-led forces leave the country. Mr. Karzai, who is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term, is widely expected to name a preferred candidate in the polls, possibly his older brother Qayum or a trusted ally. But with 18 months until the poll date set by the Independent Election Commission, some observers were skeptical that a new voting system and electoral law will be completed in time to guide elections and stave off fraud.

Afghanistan: Vote law change planned ‘to fight fraud’ | AFP

Afghanistan’s election commission has drafted proposed changes to the country’s election law in a bid to prevent fraud in future parliamentary votes, an official said Sunday. Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election and the parliamentary election held a year later were both characterised by widespread electoral fraud. “We have used the previous election experiences to prepare the new draft to improve future elections,” Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP. “In the new draft around 50 percent of the electoral law will be changed.”

Afghanistan: Woman MP sets sights on Afghan presidency | Reuters

Condemned to die shortly after birth for being a girl, outspoken Afghan member of parliament Fawzia Koofi lived to become a champion of women’s rights and is now eyeing the presidency in 2014. The 36-year-old expects harsh opposition, threats of violence and pressure against her family as her campaign gets underway to replace Hamid Karzai, who must step down that year after serving the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms. “I am sure my campaign will be the noisiest. I will have lots of troubles against me,” the politician from the country’s remote northeastern Badakhshan province told Reuters in an interview this week. Koofi is the first person to declare an intention to run in the election, which is becoming increasingly fraught with confusion and uncertainty in the run-up to the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan: Afghan president appoints new election officials | Reuters

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has named three new commissioners, including a former provincial governor, to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a body that has faced criticism in the past for failing to stand up to government pressure. The internationally-funded IEC has been at the centre of a standoff between the Karzai administration and parliament over a fraud-marred 2010 vote in which it threw out nearly a quarter of all votes over fraud and technical complaints.

Two of the new commissioners are former members of parliament, Rida Azimi from Parwan province, and Sayed Hashim Folad from Nangarhar, while the third official is Ghulam Dastagir Azad, who was earlier appointed by Karzai as governor of Uruzgan province.

A spokesman for the seven-member IEC said the appointments had been made following the end of the three-year terms of three officials. The terms of two other officials was extended, while the remaining officials were in the middle of their term.

Afghanistan: Election Officials Offer to Release Voter Fraud Findings | VoA News

Afghan election officials say they stand by their decision to expel nine lawmakers from parliament for voter fraud, even though one of the unseated politicians vows to continue a hunger strike until she is reinstated.

The head of Afghanistan’s election commission said Tuesday that they are ready and willing to make public how they arrived to their decision. Despite the government’s ruling, Simeen Barakzai has vowed to continue her hunger strike outside parliament in Kabul.

Afghanistan: Afghan lawmaker’s hunger strike extends vote fraud dispute |

It was the eighth day of ousted Afghan parliamentarian Simeen Barakzai’s hunger strike. Through chapped lips and in a rough voice, she said Sunday she would not drink or eat anything until President Hamid Karzai opened an investigation into vote fraud by the woman who has taken over her seat.

Her protest is the latest turn in a seemingly interminable dispute over who belongs in the Afghan parliament — still going on, more than a year after elections that were marred by fraud.

Fraud monitors discarded 1.3 million ballots from the poll — nearly a quarter of the total — and disqualified 19 winning candidates before results were finalized last fall. But many of the losers had argued that voters had been disenfranchised and pressured Karzai to revisit the results. Karzai eventually took the case to the courts, which ruled that 62 sitting parliamentarians should be removed, even though the court had no legal standing to change the results.

Afghanistan: Under Guard, Lawmakers Are Sworn In in Kabul |

The speaker of Parliament on Saturday swore in eight of nine new members reinstated last month by the country’s election commission, as hundreds of police armed with riot gear and machine guns blocked the entrance to the building to keep out members who had been replaced by the commission’s ruling.

The sedate swearing-in ceremony was witnessed by only a few dozen Parliament members. Dozens more, however, stood outside in solidarity with the ousted members, in a sign of a widening rift within Parliament, which up to now had appeared mostly unified against President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to reshape the legislature.

A spokesman for the president denied that he had ordered extra police officers to block the ousted members, saying that police officials had decided on their own that the extra force was necessary to prevent irate lawmakers from entering the building with guns. But supporters of the nine disqualified members took it as a signal of the president’s willingness to use force to impose the panel’s decision.

Afghanistan: Afghan Election Panel Seeks to Expel Nine Legislators |

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: Election commission ruling may raise more problems than it solves |

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.

Afghanistan: Some lawmakers to lose seats after IEC election review | AlertNet/Reuters

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday said it will remove some, but not all of the 62 parliamentarians whose victories were thrown out by a special court set up by a decree from President Hamid Karzai.

The special poll court’s June ruling rejected results for 62 lawmaker seats, or about a quarter of the 249-member assembly elected in a fraud-riddled poll in September of 2010, raising the prospect of a standoff between Karzai and the parliament. The tribunal carried out recounts and dismissed the 62 on grounds of alleged voting irregularities. The IEC, which ran the foreign-funded election, at first opposed the tribunal’s decision, but last month said it would review it.

Afghanistan: Thousands protest over Afghan vote rigging row |

Afghan lawmakers and thousands of their supporters took to the streets of Kabul on Tuesday to protest at the latest twist in a row over fraud in elections last year, officials said. Afghanistan is currently gripped by what experts say is a constitutional crisis over the results of the fraud-tainted parliamentary elections in September last year and how many lawmakers should be disqualified as a result.

President Hamid Karzai last week ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to resolve the long-standing dispute and it is expected to announce within days its decision on how many members of parliament will be kicked out.

“There are about 3,000 people, members of parliament and their supporters demonstrating around the parliament building,” Hashmat Stanikzai, a Kabul police spokesman, told reporters.

Afghanistan: U.N. pushes risky plan to resolve Afghan election impasse |

The United Nations is quietly pushing a plan aimed at healing a rupture between President Hamid Karzai and the opposition-dominated parliament that threatens to ignite a full-blown constitutional crisis, two international officials said.

The proposal, however, risks inflaming the feud and triggering charges of foreign interference with the country’s electoral commission, which is supposed to be independent but has had its credibility battered by two successive fraud-marred national elections.

The U.N. is pressing the commission to overturn for alleged fraud the results of 17 of last year’s 249 races for parliament’s lower house, the officials said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The number is far fewer than the 62 contests that Karzai wanted reversed, but stops short of granting opposition lawmakers’ calls for no changes at all.

Afghanistan: Karzai Annuls Afghan Court Reviewing 2010 Polls |

In a startling reversal on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan annulled a special court that he had set up to review the results of the 2010 parliamentary elections.

The decision, which came after months of pressure from Western diplomats, reaffirms the authority of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, which finalized the results of the election last November only to have its authority undermined by the creation of the special court. It was also an acknowledgement that President Karzai’s effort to change the makeup of the new parliament through the court was hurting his administration more than helping it.

Afghanistan: Afghan president: Courts cannot change election

Afghanistan’s president issued a decree Wednesday stating that the country’s courts do not have the power to alter election results, appearing to bow to pressure to resolve an impasse over the parliament’s legitimacy that threatened to create a constitutional crisis.

The Afghan parliament has been in limbo after a special court in June called for the removal of 62 sitting lawmakers, saying they won their seats through fraud. The dispute hamstrung the country’s already tumultuous political system, with the courts, the president and legislature all claiming the right to make the final ruling about last year’s messy elections.

Afghanistan’s September 2010 ballot was plagued by irregularities and voter intimidation. Fraud monitors discarded 1.3 million ballots — nearly a quarter of the total — for fraud, and disqualified 19 winning candidates for cheating.

Afghanistan: Afghan MPs appeal to UN over poll row | AFP

Afghan lawmakers Sunday urged the United Nations to support their resistance to moves by a special election tribunal to throw over 60 of them out of parliament over alleged vote fraud.

The members of parliament (MPs) met the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, amid a spiralling crisis gripping the country’s political system weeks before foreign troops start to withdraw.

Some analysts accuse Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who ordered the establishment of the special tribunal, of using it to try and boost the number of his supporters in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.

Afghanistan: Unseated Afghan MPs threaten protests | Al Jazeera

Dozens of Afghan MPs unseated by a special election court investigating allegations of fraud and irregularities have threatened to call for protests, including blocking the country’s roads.

“If the special court is not absolved, we will call our constituencies to the streets and the president will bear responsibility for what might happen,” Haji Zahir Qadeer, an MP from Nengrahar province, told reporters.

A special election court set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai unseated 61 members of the Afghan parliament – a quarter of the lower house – including its deputy speaker on claims of fraud. The parliament has been in session for more than four months.

Afghanistan: Afghan Court Ruling Seeks to Alter Parliamentary Election Results |

A special court set up at the behest of President Hamid Karzai ordered on Thursday the reinstatement of 62 candidates who had lost their seats or had been disqualified from last year’s parliamentary elections, reviving the prospect of a constitutional crisis for the nation.

The decision was the latest chapter in a heated dispute over allegations of fraud in last September’s elections. Coming a day after President Obama’s announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, it provided a stinging reminder of the potential for turbulence in the country’s fledgling democracy.