|CREDIBILITY AT STAKE
Many in Afghanistan had hoped the parliamentary vote would prove a success story for President Hamid Karzai.
Afghanistan forms tribunal to review election complaints
Karzai signs off on proposal by Supreme Court
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s Supreme Court has set up a special tribunal to review complaints of fraud stemming from the September parliamentary elections — a decision that could bring new uncertainty to a poll already marred by massive irregularities.
The development comes less than a month before the 249-seat Parliament convenes on Jan. 20, and it remains unclear whether the tribunal can make any decisions that could alter the final result, which has been accepted by the international community.
But it is sure to complicate the tainted election process and bring more doubt about Afghanistan’s ability to govern itself as the US-led coalition makes plans to gradually hand over responsibility for the country to its own security forces by 2014.
President Hamid Karzai issued a decree Sunday empowering the five-member tribunal, his legal adviser Nasrullah Stanekzai said yesterday.
The tribunal was proposed by the nine-member Supreme Court after it received scores of complaints about fraud and corruption forwarded by the attorney general’s office, court spokesman Abdul Wakel Omary said.
Presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said Karzai is “committed and wishes to inaugurate the new Parliament at the proper time.’’
The court will investigate legal issues associated with the undetermined number of complaints and if necessary, refer any cases to the anticorruption courts for trial and sentencing, Omary added.
Election officials insist that neither the attorney general nor the Supreme Court have the authority to change the final results issued on Nov. 24.
But the Independent Elections Commission did not rule out that criminal cases could be brought against individual officials or candidates on corruption issues.
“Any decision by anyone or any institution after the announcement of the final result by the IEC is not legal,’’ commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.
But he added that the one exception was if there is “evidence against individuals within the commission or any other individuals’’ associated with the elections.
Afghanistan’s Sept. 18 election was plagued by irregularities and voter intimidation.
Election officials discarded 1.3 million ballots — nearly a quarter of the total — for fraud and disqualified 19 winning candidates for cheating. The attorney general’s office also launched a separate investigation into allegations of ballot manipulation.
Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Alako said earlier this month that votes were bought and sold to such an extent that the results could be invalid.
A spokesman for the Elections Complaints Commission, which was charged with investigating complaints of fraud, said any complaints which could affect the final election results had already been dealt with.
“The ECC has completed its work and investigated and reached all complaints which could affect the final result of the election,’’ Ahmad Zia Rafat said.
Many had hoped the vote would prove a success story for Karzai after a fraud-marred presidential poll hurt his credibility last year. Instead, the latest vote has been just as mired in allegations of fraud and state-sanctioned cheating.
Also yesterday, a suicide car bombing in the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar killed three people and wounded 26 others, mostly police, officials said. The attack highlighted the instability in Afghanistan as the NATO-led fight against insurgents there approaches the start of its 10th year.
The bomber struck in the crowded center of the city, near a police compound and a branch of Kabul Bank, and witnesses described a chaotic scene after the dust and smoke cleared.