Watchdogs blast delay in decree on electoral reform
KABUL (Pajhwok): Election watchdogs have expressed their concern over the delay in releasing a second presidential decree on reforming the country’s electoral regime.
Reliable government sources say President Ashraf Ghani is expected to issue his second decree on electoral reforms before the Wolesi Jirga returns from its winter recess.
Ghani’s previous decree in this regard had been rejected by the lower house, jeopardizing efforts at revamping the electoral system and barring the Selection Committee from continuing its job.
Habib Rahman Nang, the Afghan Civil Society Network (ACSEN) chief executive, told reporters in Kabul that the government had failed to keep its promise of taking concert steps toward reforming the country’s election system.
Cleaning up the election system was necessary, he said, asking the government to embark on the important task. Any further delay in the process would lead to serious complications, he warned.
Roshan Seran, a member of ACSEN, also insisted on the implementation of reforms in the electoral system. He said “empty” slogans about electoral reform would not help democracy prosper.
Some months ago, the Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) presented the government an eight-point reform list. President Ghani decreed seven of the suggestions and called for urgent measures to provide legal cover for the proposals.
Major proposals include registration of voters, making the election bodies accountable and the presence of two foreigners on the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC).
Also, the panel suggested the reservation of one Wolesi Jirga (lower house) seat for the Hindu minority and identification and shrinking of constituencies.
Other proposals are the distribution of computerised identity cards, 25 percent representation for women on provincial and district councils and invalidation of the current voter cards.
The ERC has also proposed the number of Independent Election Commission (IEC) members be reduced from nine to seven and the IECC from seven to five.
Wolesi Jirga, however, rejected the presidential decree on ERC suggestions. The rejection has darkened the fate of the entire process.
The lower house revoked the decree because election laws already approved by it and endorsed by the president were in force. In line with Article 14 of the law, if there is a need for amendments, the issue should be referred to the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
Javed Faisal, deputy spokesman for the Chief Executive Office, said the president’s legislative decree had been approved in a Cabinet meeting and might be released ahead of the end of the lower house’s winter holidays.
He said implementation of electoral reforms had been a prime demand of the people of Afghanistan and a pledge made by the unity government ahead of its formation.
A month earlier, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced it had set an Oct 15 date for the long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections.
IEC Chairman Yousuf Nuristani told a news conference that the panel made all technical preparations to conduct the election process on October 15, 2016.
But, Faisal said the schedule for parliamentary and district council elections would be announced by new commissioners and the current schedule had no justification and was unacceptable.
Mohammad Yusuf Rashid, executive director of Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), voiced concern about the delay, saying since the inception of the unity government the leaders were prolonging the process.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News there was no clear roadmap for electoral reforms and the unity government’s leaders were divided on the vital issue.
Rashid said a political will was important at this moment and a further delay in this regard meant further waste of time and opportunity.
He warned without proper reforms the upcoming parliamentary elections would be marred by fraud, corruption and behind-the-curtain dealings which wouldn’t be acceptable to a majority of the people.
He said the government should launch an effective lobby to get the reform agenda passed through parliament. He hoped past mistakes would not be repeated this time and that the election reforms decree would win lawmakers’ votes.
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