FEFA Parliament Inauguration Welcome, But Must not Become a Victory for Impunity

Kabul, January 26, 2011 – The Free and Fair Election Foundation welcomed the inauguration of parliament Wednesday, following the resolution of a months-long standoff between the electoral institutions and the presidential palace. “We welcome this outcome, which reaffirms the constitutional separation of powers and the checks and balances that are fundamental to any democratic state,” said FEFA chairman Nader Nadery. “Now, the new parliament must serve the people of Afghanistan honestly, transparently and in a manner that respects the great risks voters took on Election Day. It is also important that investigations into serious election crimes continue through the proper legal channels.” Wednesday’s inauguration seemed uncertain just days before. The post-election political crisis gained momentum last week when the president announced that the already long-delayed inauguration of the parliament would be postponed until February 22 to give a special election dispute court more time to investigate complaints by losing candidates from the 2010 elections. In response, more than 200 of the 249 parliamentarians-elect banded together and vowed to open the new legislative session with or without the president’s approval, and to convene in an alternative venue if they were barred access to the assembly chambers. Under Afghanistan’s constitution and electoral law, the special court, a chamber of the High Court created at the behest of the president, has no jurisdiction over electoral disputes. Only the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has the authority to adjudicate electoral disputes, and criminal cases should be channeled through the criminal justice system. The president ended the confrontation by announcing that the new parliament would be inaugurated on Wednesday. The ceremony went ahead as scheduled, opening the legislature’s five-year term. During the 2010 parliamentary elections, FEFA’s nearly 7,000 observers recorded hundreds of instances of candidates intimidating rivals and voters, violating election laws, and orchestrating violence. FEFA submitted extensive documentation of many of these cases to the ECC. “Today’s inauguration prevented the escalation of a political crisis, but It should not become a victory for impunity,” Nadery said. In the wake of this second disputed national election, FEFA has called on the Afghan government and its international partners to immediately begin the process of reforming Afghanistan’s electoral system for future elections.

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