Published on 05 Aug 2012 at 08:43
A number of political party representatives warn that the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) current management structure cannot guarantee its independence or ensure transparency in the electoral process. They also want to see major changes to the Election Law, which would introduce political party participation in elections. While the IEC recently held a daylong consultation with political party representatives, this, they argue, is only symbolic and more proactive measures are needed to bring political party recommendations to the new draft Election Law.
The IEC recently hosted a one-day meeting aimed at bridging communications with political party leaders and to consult on electoral issues. During the meeting, the IEC’s Chairman, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, insisted that the IEC will conduct elections in line with the Constitution, while also recognizing the challenges of implementing elections in Afghanistan. “The IEC still faces challenges and constraints to conduct transparent elections, but we will hold the  election as scheduled in the Constitution” he said.
According to the IEC, the main goal of the meeting was to establish an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding, and expand dialogue between the IEC and political parties to gain party support for IEC programs. “Giving political parties a role in the new draft Election Law means the IEC trusts them. Democracy without the presence of strong political parties is not a sound democracy,” said Furogh Tabish, head of the IEC’s Information Department.
Furogh Tabish, head of the IEC’s Information Department.
Despite such assertions from the IEC, political parties doubt the Commission’s commitment. Ali Amiri, deputy spokesperson for the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) – the country’s biggest opposition party – questions the IEC’s efforts to gain political party support. “[IEC officials] just follow their own program and hold such meetings symbolically. There is no reason to believe that the IEC will include any political party opinions in its programs,” he said.
The Right and Justice (R&J) Political Party, which reportedly was not invited to the IEC’s consulting meeting, criticizes the IEC’s approach to political parties. “Even smaller entities like the Naser Khosrow Foundation were invited to the IEC’s consulting meeting, but the R&J Party which developed a comprehensive proposal for the elections wasn’t,” said Abbass Noyan, a senior R&J party member and a former member of the National Assembly.
According to Noyan, the IEC wanted to only appear democratic through its inclusion of political parties, but will not actually act on party recommendations.
Criticisms aside, the IEC sent the new draft Election Law to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on June 11, which included provisions to allocate one-third of the legislature’s seats to political parties on the basis of proportional representation in each province. But, now in the hands of the MoJ, the IEC is unable to introduce any more changes to the law.
Abbass Noyan, a senior R&J party member and a former
member of the National Assembly.
Furogh also points out that the IEC hosted a number of meetings across the country to review the draft Election Law with stakeholder groups, political parties included. “The IEC only drafted the law. We cannot be blamed if our friends [political parties] pay no attention to this issue from the beginning,” he said.
Furogh also rejects the allegation that the R&J Party did not receive an invitation. “Our friends, [political parties] are unjust in this regard. We invited all registered parties and the IEC had no reason to not invite the R&J Party,” he added.
The R&J Party claims it sent a proposal containing recommended electoral reforms to relevant organizations, including the IEC and MoJ. The R&J proposal reportedly recommended establishing a permanent Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), distributing national electronic identification cards, finalizing boundary delimitation, and improving polling station security. But none of these recommendations, the R&J Party notes, are reflected in the draft law.
“Political party participation is a pillar of democracy and should be given a role in elections,”
“Unfortunately, our proposal has not been considered in the new draft Election Law. We proposed the establishment of a strong and permanent ECC, but [the ECC] is replaced with the Election Monitoring Commission, which has weaker authorities,” said Noyan.
During the meeting, the IEC asked political parties to support future elections. “We demand political parties to help the IEC in conducting free and fair and transparent elections. Hopefully, such meetings will help us to achieve a common vision,” said Furogh.
Also during the meeting, Amiri said that party representatives stressed the need to maximize transparency in the electoral system and prioritize political party participation in elections.
“Political party participation is a pillar of democracy and should be given a role in elections,” said Amiri. He warns that the IEC’s management structure, appointment of commission leadership, and the non-party based election system are the main points of contention between the IEC and political parties. “The IEC structure is neither transparent nor independent and political parties play no role in elections. Our specific suggestion was that both political party and independent candidates should have the right to compete in elections,” added Amiri.
Ali Amiri, deputy spokesperson for the National Front
of Afghanistan (NFA).
But, the IEC sees it differently. “The IEC has no conflict with political parties. We took the initiative to allow [political parties] to propose their recommendations to the Election Law. If they have problems with laws or regulations, they should refer them to the government, not to the IEC,” said Furogh. “The IEC only designs the law, but has no power to change the law.”
The R&J Party raised concerns over the soundness and transparency of elections. Abbas Noyan warns that the IEC’s current structure is the main challenge. “The IEC’s independence comes into question when its entire leading staff is appointed by the President. So, we cannot trust the transparency and soundness of the elections,” he added.
The NFA is slightly more upbeat about the state of electoral affairs. “We are trying to change the situation and bring changes to the IEC’s structure by approving the IEC’s Duties and Responsibilities Law. We want to stop the IEC from being used as a tool by the government,” Amiri stated. “We will not be upbeat about the soundness and transparency of future elections if these changes are not realized.”
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