KABUL - A key opposition leader on Monday accused the incumbent administration of seeking to rig the 2014 elections by opposing the inclusion of two foreigners in the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistan National Coalition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah called President Hamid Karzai's stance on the issue an attempt to hijack the polls.
The former foreign minister believed the government's aversion to the temporary appointment of two foreigners as members of the commission showed it had no intention to organize transparent elections.
On Thursday, Karzai said foreign members be removed from the UN-supported panel. "The presence of foreigners in ECC is against the sovereignty of Afghanistan," he told a joint media briefing with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
On Sept. 24, the Wolesi Jirga -- lower house -- approved a draft law on the ECC composition, duties and powers. Under the draft, the president has to approve the appointment of five of the eight experts recommended for the panel's membership.
In line with the proposed measure, the United Nations can name two experts as temporary members of the body that previously had three Afghan and two foreign commissioners.
Abdullah rejected Karzai's criticism as unwarranted, saying the foreigners' role in the electoral watchdog had boosted the credibility of past elections in the eyes of world and the Afghans alike.
Linking their inclusion to national sovereignty was aimed at creating doubts in people's minds and provoking public sentiments, he claimed. "National sovereignty will be enforced when rule of law is established and people's confidence in the system restored; when we stand on our own feet."
He attacked the president for trying to cement his administration's grip on the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission and ECC by excluding foreigners from the panels.
"I don't want to look at issues with a jaundiced eye and hope necessary measures will be taken to hold the polls in a free and fair manner. But if the government wants to favor a certain contender, the country will plunge into a serious crisis," he warned.
Abdullah underlined a greater role for political groups in the electoral exercise and its transparency, as suggested in the draft law.
In response to a query, he said the masses were concerned about the situation after 2014, when NATO-led combat troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan. "The people should be kept posted on the steps taken toward conducting the election process."
He hoped a smooth power transfer through transparent elections would help resolve the existing economic and security problems facing the country. (Pajhwok)