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.
“Once the IEC (Independent Election Commission) makes its announcement, the entire international community will be in lockstep supporting the IEC decision,” one official said. The United States will support whatever the IEC rules, but isn’t backing the U.N. plan, said a senior U.S. official also requested anonymity to discuss the issue.
The results of the elections, held last Aug.18, have been a point of contention since they were announced in December, weeks after the vote amid evidence of widespread fraud. Karzai opponents did well, defeating several of the president’s allies, but Karzai supporters quickly went on the attack, accusing the opposition of fraud.
In December, Karzai ordered the creation of a special tribunal to sort out the fraud allegations, a step the IEC, opposition lawmakers and the international community dismissed as illegal and an attempt by Karzai to insert more of his supporters into the lower house. During the impasse, parliament has refused to pass legislation or approve Cabinet appointments, has brought impeachment proceedings against six Supreme Court justices and threatened to impeach Karzai, who has been forced to rule by decree.
In June, the tribunal ruled that 62 contests should be reversed, but IEC chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi refused to recognize the tribunal’s authority and last week Karzai dissolved it.
The U.N. plan is intended to resolve the crisis once and for all for fear it will fuel instability as the U.S. draws down forces and security responsibilities gradually are shifted to Karzai’s government, a process due to be completed by the end of 2014.