A well-informed source tells me that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai apparently plans to use a presidential decree today to eliminate foreign participation from his country’s vitally important Electoral Complaints Commission.
This would be an outrage. It was the Electoral Complaints Commission’s foreign members, led by Canadian Grant Kippen, who insisted on careful investigation and reporting on fraud in last year’s Afghan elections. Experience leaves little doubt that the Afghan members of the commission, appointed by Karzai’s government, on their own would not have been an adequate check on cheating.
Only recently, Karzai’s main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, credited the ECC, and Kippen in particular, with giving Afghans hope and preventing even worse political turmoil in Afghanistan. If Karzai is indeed moving to gain control of that important institution, then the Canadian government should protest in the strongest possible terms and quickly. Perhaps there’s still time to reverse an entirely unacceptable development.
Along with the prospect that the commission would lose all credibility without foreign members, there is a serious worry that its staff—recruited and trained by a body whose independence was its appeal—will be fired or quit if it becomes a tool of the regime.
Late this afternoon Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon’s office said Canada’s embassy in Kabul has been meeting with “key interlocutors” to discuss what’s happening to the commission. However, Cannon’s office hasn’t been able to confirm exactly what action, if any, Karzai has taken. According to Cannon, the Canadian government is “concerned by early reports that [Karzai’s presidential] decree diminishes the level of expertise of the Electoral Complaints Commission.”