Observers welcome move to amend electoral law

KABUL (TOLOnews): Election observers on Wednesday welcomed a move by President Ashraf Ghani to amend the electoral law which included the dismissal of members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC).

This came after widespread allegations were lodged of wrongdoings by them during the electoral process, particularly in the wake of October 20 parliamentary elections – which were marred by allegations of systematic fraud and vote rigging.

Ghani approved the amendment on Tuesday, which resulted in the instant dismissal of the commissioners – including IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad and IECC chief Aziz Azizullah Aryayee.

Ghani’s move to amend the electoral law on Tuesday has raised hopes among observers and members of the public that reforms will be brought to the country’s electoral system.

A few hours after Ghani signed off on the amendment, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) slapped a travel ban on those fired from the job.

According to the AGO, it has received a document from the intelligence and security agencies which claim all members of the IEC and the IECC are accused of misusing their official authorities.

Although members and chiefs of the IEC on Wednesday refused to talk to the media about the allegations leveled against them, ex-IECC chief Azizullah Aryayee has rejected the allegations as baseless.

Election observers meanwhile said that most of the allegations were levelled against the secretariats of the IEC and IECC, however they said that the government has not taken action against them.

The AGO has tasked a team to investigate allegations against the electoral officials.

“The task team on Tuesday slapped a travel ban on 12 people including former members of the commissions and their chiefs. The task team has started its work and investigations will continue,” said AGO spokesman Jamshid Rasuli.

“In no way, the secretariats of the commissions should be separated from this case. Based on our monitoring, most allegations were reported against the commissioners of the election commissions and their secretariats,” said Sughra Saadat, spokeswoman for Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA).

“If our colleagues are provided with evidence during the investigations that some other people were also involved in the case, an investigation will be launched against them too,” added Rasuli.

“I have nothing, I guarantee that I will before the people of Afghanistan if there is a just court. The court needs to carry out all proceedings in front of the media so that the people of Afghanistan become aware of it,” said ex-IECC chief Aryayee.

Meanwhile, a number of legal experts have said that if these allegations are found to be true, questions will be raised over the credibility of the October 20 parliamentary elections.

“If these allegations are found to be connected with the issue, definitely it would have an impact on the election results and those declared as winners, questions will be raised on their results,” said legal expert Nasrullah Stanekzai.

Final results of parliamentary elections have not been released by the IEC for at least 15 provinces.

“We are waiting for the new leadership of the independent election commission, the new commissioners will determine the results of the remaining 15 provinces,” said IEC deputy spokesman Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi.

Discussions and consultations over the draft amendment started earlier this month and was unanimously endorsed by all groups – before being approved by Ghani’s cabinet.

The election law has 109 articles and 17 chapters and according to sources, a number of these articles have been amended.

The commissioners – 12 in total – were appointed to the posts in November 2016 as part of government’s efforts to ensure transparent and fair parliamentary elections.

However, the elections – held in October – were allegedly riddled with fraud and mismanagement.

This move comes amid ongoing criticism leveled at the commissioners who have still not released the final results for October’s elections for 15 provinces.

Meanwhile, consultations on the amendments to the election law have been brought ahead of the scheduled July presidential elections.