Afghan official calls for election to be tossed out

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 11, 2010 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's deputy attorney general on Saturday urged the country's highest court to throw out the contested results of recent legislative elections, a move that could hobble the new parliament and increase tensions between President Hamid Karzai and his international allies.

Karzai supporters lost seats in the election, and in recent days, the attorney general, a Karzai, ally had challenged the results and arrested several elections officials. But international leaders privately have warned Karzai not to tamper with the results, which Afghan elections officials announced last week, despite widespread evidence of fraud.

Those warnings, however, appeared to have had little effect as Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari declared that the nationwide results were so riddled with fraud that they should be thrown out.

Nazari urged the Supreme Court to order a recount and suggested that high-level elections officials had been intimately involved in trying to rig the election.

The country's Electoral Complaints Commission questioned the right of both the attorney general and Supreme Court to change the results.

"Once the results are confirmed according to the law, no other organization has the right to question the result of the elections," said Ahmad Zai Rafat, a spokesman for the electoral commission.

International observers said the legal push could delay opening of the parliament and pit competing political factions against each other in the courts.

"We have all these different institutions that are sort of making the rules up as they go along," said Martine van Bijlert, co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, private Kabul-based think tank. "There's no clear authority, no clear hierarchy, and it's not clear who can order who around."

Afghanistan's most recent elections were meant to showcase political progress to bolster U.S. claims that its efforts were making progress in preventing the country from descending into a sanctuary for anti-Western militants.

Instead, the September vote exposed deep-rooted political corruption and brought simmering ethnic tensions to the forefront.

"Up until now, the Supreme Court has done what Karzai has asked them to do, so the big question is: How far does Karzai want to push this," said van Bijlert. "And I don't think he's made up his mind."

The political tumult coincided with an especially deadly day in Afghanistan.

Nearly two-dozen people were killed in violence across the country on Saturday.

Fifteen civilians were killed by an insurgent's roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

And the U.S.-led military coalition said it was investigating reports that its forces had killed seven members of a private security firm during a confused search for insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.

NATO officials also said that more than two dozen insurgents were killed in intense fighting in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday.

(Special correspondent Hashim Shukoor contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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