Wolesi Jirga gives go-ahead to draft law on poll panels
KABUL (PAN): The Wolesi Jirga on Monday approved a draft law on the structure, duties and powers of election panels, with some members saying the legislative measure should have been adopted by a two-thirds majority.
Both houses of parliament -- Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga -- passed the draft law some two months back, but President Hamid Karzai refused to sign it. He sent it back to the lower house with certain observations on April 29.
Nine days ago, the proposed law was placed before lawmakers after being debated by house panels. However, no decision could be taken on it due to lack of quorum.
Presented once again to Monday’s session by the Judicial Commission, a majority of lawmakers voted in favour of the suggested measure, which says the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) should be an independent entity.
But President Karzai wanted the ECC to work either under the Independent Election Commission (IEC) or the Supreme Court. The presidential view was endorsed by house panel chiefs, Judicial Commission head Mohammad Mohaqiq said.
Another controversial article pertained to a committee that would introduce ECC and IEC members to the president, he added. The committee will be comprised of Wolesi Jirga speaker, Meshrano Jirga chairman, chief justice, attorney general, university teachers and civil society members.
The draft law says 14 members be nominated for IEC and eight for ECC. Their names should be sent to the president, who will select nine members for IEC and five for ECC.
Similarly, Karzai has suggested 22 IEC members should be appointed through open competition. The Wolesi Jirga, while accepting the proposal, said the panel should be led by the speaker.
The draft law suggests a member of the Electoral Complaints Commission should have a Supreme Court judge, but Karzai opposed this provision, saying a judge could not work out of the apex court’s framework.
Mohaqiq said the president insisted the IEC Secretariat head should also serve as the panel’s secretary, but the assembly wanted different individuals in these positions.
While opposing the Wolesi Jirga’s decision on dual nationalities of IEC commissioners, Karzai argued the constitutional provision applied only to candidates for the presidency.
Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, asking legislators to vote on the draft law, said it had been debated in general sessions and meetings of house commissions. “There is no need for further debate on this.”
Most of the 155 members present in a house of 249, voted in favour of the legislative measure but some walked out in protest against the amendments.
“Despite your walkout, the quorum (125) remains complete and the draft law stands approved,” the speaker ruled.
MP Abdul Sattar Khawasi, speaking on behalf of the 30 protesting MPs, told reporters the assembly decision was not worth accepting. He insisted the quorum was far from complete, and the passage of the proposed law required the presence of two-thirds of members.
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