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Afghanistan president dissolves special elections court

Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday announced the dissolution of a special court [order, text, in Persian] he had established to investigate poll fraud in last September's parliamentary elections [IEC backgrounder]. The special court overturned the election results [JURIST report] of nearly 25 percent of the assembly seats in June amidst criticism that the court was established to invalidate election gains made by Karzai's political opponents. In his decree, Karzai acknowledged that the Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] has ultimate authority on determining election results in the country. UK Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir William Patey [official website] welcomed the decision [tweet]. The IEC plans to review the documents [AP report] and materials obtained by the special court in order to make a final judgement on whether any lawmakers should be removed.

With the US withdrawing troops, ongoing disputes over irregularities in last September's parliamentary elections have raised doubts about the stability of the Afghan government. In January, Karzai postponed the seating [JURIST report] of Parliament following a request by the special court for more time to look into allegations of fraud surrounding the elections. Karzai had promised [JURIST report] to have the special court review the election results in time to seat the election by the original January deadline. But the IEC claims that the special does not have legal authority to question the results that it certifies because the law says it has the final say in determining the elections results. In November, the Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] disqualified 21 candidates [JURST report] for electoral fraud after finding widespread voting irregularities in 12 provinces. Of the disqualified candidates, 19 had either won or were leading in their districts, seven of which were incumbents, and two were second place finishers in districts where the first place finisher was also disqualified. In October, the IEC invalidated 1.3 million votes [JURIST report], nearly a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast nationwide, due to findings of fraud. The IEC found that the 2,543 polling stations where the votes had been cast did not follow IEC procedures.

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