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Afghanistan parliament backs presidential appointment of election commission

[JURIST] The upper house of the Afghan parliament, the Meshrano Jirga, on Saturday backed a decree allowing the president to appoint all of the members of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official websites]. The decree was issued in February by President Hamid Karzai [official profile; JURIST news archive] following the disputed 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. Previously, the ECC was comprised of three foreign members appointed by the UN and two Afghan citizens - one appointed by the Supreme Court and another by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [official websites]. The decree requires that all members be Afghan citizens and gives the president the power to appoint all five members. On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga [official website], the lower house of the Afghan parliament, voted overwhelmingly [press release] to veto Karzai's decree. The upper house refused to vote [Reuters report] on the issue, however, touching off a debate [WSJ report] as to what is now required to prevent the decree from being enforced under the Afghan Constitution [text]. Western diplomats claim that it must be vetoed by the Meshrano Jirga as well, and others add that the veto must be signed by the president. Additionally, some lawmakers have argued that electoral law cannot be changed within a year of an election. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September.

The rejection of Karzai's decree has been seen as further evidence that he is facing a much more assertive parliament in his second term. The Wolesi Jirga rejected more than a dozen of Karzai's cabinet nominees in January before finally accepting [JURIST reports] his nominee for the justice ministry. On Thursday, Karzai blamed foreign officials [JURIST report] for the extensive irregularities that occurred during the presidential election. Though admitting that fraud was widespread, Karzai accused [Al Jazeera report] UN and EU representatives of attempting to influence vote counts. In November, Karzai was declared the winner [JURIST report] of the election after challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] withdrew from the runoff election due to his belief that a free and fair vote was impossible.

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