Published on 31 Mar 2012 at 01:19
Following the controversies of Afghanistan’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) is introducing a new structure, duties and authorities law as a means of ensuring a tradition of transparent elections in Afghanistan. The new draft law has already been sent to the National Assembly for legislative review. In an interview with www.bamdad.af, Abdullah Ahmadzai, Chief Electoral Officer at the IEC, outlines components of the newly proposed law and explains the reasoning behind its development. According to Ahmadzai, changes to the electoral system demand far reaching political support.
What was the basis for proposing a separate law on the IEC’s structure, duties and authorities?
The IEC was established in 2004 based on article 156 of the Constitution and conducts elections in accordance with the Constitution of Afghanistan. Under the current legal framework, the Election Law includes provisions for organizing elections while presidential decree No 23 of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan regulates the duties and responsibilities of the IEC and selection of its members [chairpersons and commissioners, who are currently appointed by the president].
Following discussions between the IEC and Ministry of Justice, both sides agreed to develop a separate draft law for IEC’s structure, duties and authorities. The new draft law focuses on three important structural areas including the scope of the Commission’s structure and administration; duties and authorities of the IEC as a policy making body for elections; as well as issues related to the Commission’s budget and responsibilities of security entities to cooperate with the IEC in ensuring elections security.
What are the reasons for the IEC to introduce the Structure, Duties and Authorities Law?
As I explained about regulation over the IEC’s structure, the duties and authorities law did not exist previously and the new draft law, which has been sent to the National Assembly, is the first draft of such a law. In fact, the existence of such a comprehensive law, which includes operating procedures and processes for the selection of members of the IEC, will resolve any legal ambiguities surrounding IEC operations and establish a sound framework for the Commission.
The IEC is prepared to contribute to these discussions, to educate stakeholders on aspects of different election systems and to provide its technical and professional expertise to the country’s decision makers.
Is there any link between the problems faced during previous elections and the provisions of this new law?
In spite of the fact that our country doesn’t have a long history of elections, we have learned lessons about our legal framework, electoral campaigns and the process of conducting elections after each election. We can use these lessons learned to improve the electoral process in Afghanistan. The IEC is committed to proposing all requisite provisions in the new draft law in order to promote stronger elections in Afghanistan.
In the IEC’s draft law, what measures have been adopted to ensure transparency in the elections process?
The IEC’s structure, duties and authorities law was drafted in 2009 and it is now under discussion in the Assembly. The law includes provisions which effectively ensure greater transparency in the electoral process, including new procedures for selecting IEC’s members, detailed explanations on the IEC’s responsibilities as an electoral policy maker and the role of observers, as well as clarification on the IEC secretariat’s role as the main decision-making body within the Commission for conducting elections across Afghanistan.
Under the provisions in the presidential decree on the IEC structure, duties and authorities, the IEC’s commissioners are selected by the president and then they select the IEC’s head and deputy. If the law is approved, how will you convince critics that the IEC has maintained its independence?
Undoubtedly, the draft law has opened avenues for discussion among different stakeholders in order to ensure transparency in elections and in the selection process of IEC’s members. The current draft invites such discussions and fortunately we now have an opportunity to seek solutions on these issues in cooperation with the people’s representatives in the Assembly and to reach an agreement on how to best ensure transparency in Afghanistan’s elections.
Why did you not propose that the head and deputy head of the IEC should be confirmed by the Assembly?
It is worth mentioning that developing a practical mechanism for selection of the IEC’s members, and ensuring transparency in the selection process as proposed here will be the best solution.
This could be a challenging issue. Since the Assembly itself is an elected entity, the IEC maintains the responsibility to organize elections for it. This may present conflicts of interest in such cases and we must avoid such conflicts of interest. It is worth mentioning that developing a practical mechanism for selection of the IEC’s members, and ensuring transparency in the selection process as proposed here will be the best solution.
In your opinion, does the Election Law (which will be separate from the proposed IEC Structure, Duties and Authorities Law) require amendments?
There are a number of issues that the IEC is attempting to reconcile in order to finalize its proposed revisions to the Election Law. Issues under discussion are focused on how to promote future elections and how to incorporate lessons learned from the previous elections. This includes transparent mechanisms to adjudicate election-related complaints, how to accelerate classification of election-related complaints, election results announcements, and other operational issues related to increasing transparency in holding elections in Afghanistan.
It is worth reminding you that the IEC is an independent body with no affiliation to any political entity or politicians in the country. During elections it plays a facilitator role by bringing together all political players.
The IEC as an independent entity will only provide information about different election systems which operate around the world and the impact of those systems for the country’s politicians. As such, this much must be clear: any changes in the electoral system demand political support and discussions from all ends of the country’s political spectrum as all political players may be impacted by these changes. The IEC is prepared to contribute to these discussions, to educate stakeholders on aspects of different election systems and to provide its technical and professional expertise to the country’s decision makers.
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