IEC Says it will Announce Election Date Amid Reform Controversy

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) said Thursday that the election management body is preparing to announce the schedule for the parliamentary and district council’s elections.

This comes a week after the Afghan parliament rejected a presidential legislative decree on electoral reforms, a decision that has sparked strong reactions among the election monitors.

The IEC said the it has been trying to start talks with the government and international donors to secure the budget for the elections.

Amid the controversy, the Afghan presidential palace has said that the election date will be announced by the new members of the election commission, and not by the present commissioners.

“If there was cooperation from parliament and if parliament had not taken a backward step, the selection committee would have already started its job. The selection committee will decide the new commissioners. It is the new commission which will be authorized to announce election calendar,” a deputy presidential spokesman, Shahhussain Murtazawi, said.

Election monitoring groups have asked the government not to damage the democratic process.

The disputed 2014 presidential elections harmed democracy in Afghanistan. Electoral reforms which are being considered are the only option to remove the scandal from the face of Afghan election law.

Following the establishment of the national unity government under president Ashraf Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah, the two leaders vowed to implement necessary reforms to the election law. Two years have however passed since then and the government has failed to deliver on its commitments to election reforms.

“The previous commission has no legitimacy, the date which is announced by that commission is invalid,” said Mujiburrahman Rahimi, spokesman to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

While many consider the holding of elections under the present IEC officials to be the burial of democracy in Afghanistan, the IEC still seems defiant and insists on announcing the election date.

“For holding transparent elections, we need to bring about necessary reforms in the election structures and legal framework. Only then will we be able to conduct the elections,” said Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, an IEC commissioner Sarir Ahmad Barmak, has said that by firing the current election commissioners will not be a solution to the ongoing deadlock that has hit the reform process. There is not enough time for the new commissioners to conduct the polling, he said.

He added new commissioners will need approximately one year in order to conduct the polling.

“We want to assure the people of Afghanistan that where we really are in terms of conducting the elections, are we able to conduct the parliamentary and district council elections on time or not. Unfortunately we have lost the time,” Sarir Ahmad Barmak said.

“They (government) want to implement their own wishes in the election process in Afghanistan,” said Yousuf Rashid, head of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA).

This comes at a time that President Ashraf Ghani’s legislative decree on election reform is heading to the senate for voting. If the senate approved the decree, a joint commission of House of Representatives and the Senate will start discussions on the decree to clarify fate of the much-awaited legislation.

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