[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Afghanistan [official website] decided Sunday to allow President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to remain in office until this August's general election [AOP election materials]. Under the Afghanistan Constitution [text], Karzai's term in office expires May 21, but the court held [NYT report] that since the extension of the election until August for security reasons was contrary to the constitution, the extension of Karzai's presidency would also be appropriate. Karzai's rivals hoped the court would require the appointment of a temporary government, fearing an extension of his term will give him an unfair advantage in the upcoming election. The court's decision is not binding. A grand tribunal, made up of approximately 1,000 delegates from around the country, has final authority on issues related to the constitution. A spokesperson for the US Department of State [official website] welcomed [statement] the court's ruling, and "call[ed] on the Government of Afghanistan, joined by its international partners, to make every effort to ensure that the conditions are created for genuinely free and fair elections that will reflect the will of the Afghan people."
Previous Afghani elections have been marred by allegations of fraud, allowing officials to remain in power beyond the expiration of their terms while results were reviewed. In 2005, the official results of the assembly elections were not available for nearly two months due to allegations of fraud [JURIST reports]. During that election a joint electoral board formed between Afghanistan and UN found that the irregularities were not enough [JURIST report] to call the results into question.