Published on 04 Sep 2011 at 09:01
In an interview with www.bamdad.af, Qaseem Akhgar, a political analyst and chief editor of the 8Subh newspaper, stated that the latest decision of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) regarding disqualification of nine current members of the Parliament (MPs) has seriously damaged Parliament’s independence. According to Akhgar, this decision has also destroyed people’s trust in the independence of the electoral bodies. Akhgar said that Mr. Manawi, the head of the IEC, should have resigned rather than change the election results.
The Independent Election Commission decided to disqualify nine MPs following President Karzai’s decree (that the IEC make the final decision about the parliamentary election outcomes). This was against IEC’s previous position. In your opinion, what was the reason for the change in the IEC’s position?
According to Mr. Manawi, the head of the IEC, he was unwillingly engaged in this situation and made the decision under pressure. In my opinion, he should not have decided so under any pressure. He should have bravely defended the IEC’s independence and resisted pressure. Unfortunately, he withdrew his legitimate stance. That was unexpected. He should have resigned instead of taking such a decision, which cannot be justified by any means.
Some analysts believe that this decision has been taken illegally and could be a start of ignoring the independence of the impartial entities. What do you think?
No matter who is included or excluded from the Lower House, any change in the final election results is against the Election Law. The latest change in the final results, following the presidential decree, sets a bad precedent that threatens the future of elections in Afghanistan.
We are living in a country in which powerful individuals interpret laws in their favor. Therefore, such decisions will be misused for political purposes in the future, and the government will change election results in its favor.
The IEC’s latest decision also has seriously weakened the position of the Parliament. The legislature has changed to a worthless body under the influence of the executive now, any time in the future the government can replace MPs through a decree.
According to Mr. Manawi, he was unwillingly engaged in that event and just wanted to end the election crisis following President Karzai’s decree. What could he do in such a situation?
If Mr. Manawi changed his previous position in order to end the election crisis for the good of the nation, he achieved the opposite by increasing tensions and creating another new critical phase.
Such change has resulted in weakening the Lower House’s prestige and has caused protesting candidates to continue their dissent. Most probably, similar protests will take place inside the Lower House.
Those nine candidates announced as winners by the IEC [according to the decree] were among the 17 disputed candidates the IEC announced as winners in the preliminary results of the parliamentary election. But the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) accused them of fraud and excluded their names from final results. The IEC reinvestigated their votes and announced 9 out of the 17 as winners in the absence of the ECC. This raises the question: Why didn’t the IEC announce all 17 candidates as winners if the ECC was wrong; or if the ECC was right, why did the IEC announce those 17 candidates as winners in the preliminary list of results?
The IEC should answer this question. Indeed, by taking such a decision after 9 months, Mr. Manawi opened the way for losing candidates to raise further claims against the election process.
Will the Parliament accept this decision?
I think the legislature will agree in the end to let the nine candidates enter the House under the executive’s pressure. The executive has been trying to break the “Coalition for the Support of the Rule of Law” and seems successful in its aim to some extent. We’ve seen the establishment of a new parliamentary group called “Reformists” that supports the government.
The Parliament, particularly the “Coalition for Support of the Rule of Law”, is against the IEC’s decision [to change nine members] and calls it unlawful, saying that they accept no changes in the Parliament. But I think that the body has no implementing authority and the executive will enforce its decision in the end.
Which body will implement the IEC’s decision?
It is against the law for anyone or any institution to implement the decision.
I think the executive wanted to show its power to the legislature - that it can do anything it wants, and their [the legislature’s] opposition has no importance. The government achieved its goal (weakening the position of the Parliament) and will implement its decision.
Another concern regarding the election crisis and the change in position of the IEC is the mistrust of the people in elections and democracy. Will the change in position of the IEC (Mr. Manawi’s position) affect the independence of the electoral bodies in the public’s view?
Of course! Considering the IEC’s nontransparent activities in the presidential elections as well as the change of the position by the head of the body, [Mr. Manawi] has destroyed people’s belief in the independence of the electoral bodies. The IEC’s latest decision showed that law has no value in Afghanistan and anything can be achieved by power.
People have realized that their votes have no effect in electing their representative; it is just powerful entities that decide who comes to the elected bodies.
We saw that Mr. Manawi’s nine-month resistance against the judiciary, particularly the Special Court, was broken following the presidential decree.
In addition to people’s distrust of electoral bodies, the prestige of the Parliament – the body that monitors government’s activities – has been damaged. Change in the composition of the Parliament under government pressure showed that the legislature can be forced by any means if it criticizes the executive or stands against it.
Why did President Karzai delay announcing his stance on the IEC’s decision [to replace the nine members] five days after the IEC announcement?
The president wanted to see national and international reactions to the decision to adopt his position.
I think his full satisfaction has been achieved. The president has achieved his goals: breaking the resistance of the IEC and the Parliament.
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