Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

IEC Also Ran Amok

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IEC Also Ran Amok

Finally, on Sunday, August 21, 2011, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) disqualified nine sitting MPs to be replaced with another 9 candidates previously certified as having lost the parliamentary election. The decision was announced by the IEC chairman, Fazl Ahmad Manawi, during a press conference in Kabul. He said that the newly declared winners were from amongst 62 replacements announced by the Special Election Tribunal earlier. The coalition for protection of laws had earlier said that they would not accept any change made by the IEC based on the ruling of Special Election Tribunal, which unseated 62 MPs. This is composed of 137 members and staged a sit-in a day after Karzai issued the decree. They also have warned that they would seize Arg(the presidential palace) to show the president that he cannot move the country towards autocracy and authoritarianism or he cannot obstruct the democratic process of the country.

On the other hand, on Saturday, August 20, sixty-two parliamentary candidates, who have been declared as winners by the special election tribunal, said that they would not accept any change in the court's decision. Daud Sultanzoy, one of those candidates, said, "If the verdict is not enforced, we would embark on a series of protests, which would lead to a nationwide movement." Rubina Jalali, a female candidate, also said, "If the court's decision is not implemented, a political crisis will erupt because the 62 candidates would not stay silent."

Now that the IEC has unseated only 9 members of the parliament neither of the two parties will accept the decision and it is definitely the beginning of another serious crisis created by President Hamid Karzai. The IEC announcement shows the filthy nature of Afghan politics and the obstructionist role that political elites are playing in the transition to democracy. The IEC decision is not understandable except in the context of a firm determination to poison and overturn democratic process. The commission succumbed to the pressure put by president Hamid Karzai who has been imposing his authoritarian will to bring his own favorite candidates to the Wolesi Jirga of National Assembly, which is called the house of nation.

President Karzai, who himself was elected in a fraud-tainted election in 2009, has been calling the controversies around the parliamentary election as natural to democratic evolution. But it is to be mentioned that these disputes come from the will to obstruct the evolution of democracy and stop it from taking root. From the very beginning, he looked askance at the results of last year's parliamentary election. He once irresponsibily said that in some provinces people were not represented. The president tried not to inaugurate the parliament.

But after huge internal and external pressure, he opened the parliament but did not put an end to the disputes about it. He continued the game by establishing a Special Election Tribunal. On June 23, this court ruled that rigging had occurred in 33 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. It disqualified 62 of the 249 MPs, nearly a quarter of the lower house, on the basis of a vote recount. It is clear that the court was not equipped with the skills and techniques to do the recount.

Observers have maintained that the process of recount by the special election court was not transparent. The verdict was rejected by the election commission and the legislature. Later, a group of lawmakers met President Karzai about the decision. The president told them the election commission had prepared a six-article resolution to resolve the crisis. On August 10, Karzai ordered the commission to resolve the lingering dispute between Parliament and losing candidates. Democratic development and consolidation is contingent on strong institutions.

Election is a key institution and component of democracy. Democracy without regular transparent and credible competitive elections is not imaginable and the key element consolidating democracy and strengthening electoral process is buildinga democratic culture in the country, which requires the political actors and players to anchor the practices in unambiguous and predictable processes and strong institutions supported by popular participation.

It is true that the challenges of electoral conflicts and political violence reflect the problems of transitions to democracy associated with managing elections and building institutions of competition that are widely accepted by winners and losers. But the IEC decision to overrule its previous decision after one year is not understandable even in the context of electoral conflicts and it is setting a new example in the transitional process that could be typical of Afghan intolerant politics.Building strong institutions and political processes, such as election, is critical in ensuring that if a politician looses today, it will be rational and cost effective for him to trust the political system to afford him another chance in the future. IEC had just earned credibility by resisting political pressure to manipulate popular votes.

Earlier, the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which resisted huge pressure over the last eleven months, likened its new decision to bring changes to the composition of lower house of parliament to "drinking poison." Oddly enough, the commission officials have said that they would not take the responsibility for the consequences of their decision on the changes they are making. It is the most irresponsible decision that the IEC has made.

They could sacrifice their position for protection of laws. For whatever reasons, IEC's decision to unseat some of the members of Wolesi Jirga is not justifiable and they must be responsible for violating the law and their own decision after almost one year. If their first decision was right, then they should be held accountable for their new decision. If the new decision is right, then they have to be held accountable for their first decision last year.

It is said that democratic institutions provide stability, predictability, and accountability to the political participants that act within them. The IEC could establish such an example by refusing to respond to the pressure but unfortunately by surrendering to the pressure due to personal interests they ran amok, changing the rules as they see fit, and potentially undermining the democratic process. The IEC officials have become now co-perpetrators of this crime.

Sher Alam Saqib is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached through mail@outlookafg-hanistan.com

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