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Afghanistan official resigns from UN-backed electoral commission

[JURIST] One of the two Afghans on the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] resigned on Monday, citing "foreign interference." The panel is tasked with investigating the allegations of fraud surrounding the disputed August presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai's resignation has raised doubt about the commission's work and has generated allegations that the resignation was influenced by President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] - allegations that have been refuted by Karzai's campaign. The ECC released a statement [text, PDF] on Monday expressing its disappointment over Barakzai's resignation. There is no word on whether Barakzai will be replaced but according to Rule of Procedure 2.4 [text, PDF], the panel only needs a quorum of three people, including one Afghan in order to meet and issue rulings. In addition to the two Afghans on the panel, the five-member panel consists of one American, one Canadian, and one Dutch national. The panel must determine whether Karzai has enough votes to be declared the winner of the election or whether he will have to face a runoff vote against challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile].

Last month, the EEC ordered a recount [JURIST report] of ballots from about 10 percent of polls. Also in September, the ECC invalidated ballots [JURIST report] from certain polls in Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika [press releases, PDF] provinces. The ECC also ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] to conduct a partial recount [JURIST report] of votes from polling stations with high irregularities. The IEC said earlier in September that it is conducting its role faithfully and impartially [JURIST report] in an attempt to reassure the Afghan public amid allegations of voter fraud, mainly in response to the more than 100 complaints [JURIST report] filed with the ECC by Abdullah's campaign alleging ballot stuffing, inflated vote counts, and intimidation at the polls by Karzai supporters. Election observers also reported at least two instances of voters fingers, marked with indelible ink to avoid voter fraud, being cut off by Taliban insurgents.

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