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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Afghanistan candidate registration begins for polls

Afghanistan has begun registering thousands of candidates for parliamentary elections due to be held in September, officials say.

President Hamid Karzai last week named Fazel Ahmad Manawi as new head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC)after the previous chief resigned.

On Saturday, the UN also announced two new foreign appointments to Afghanistan's electoral watchdog.

Recent weeks have witnessed a row over Afghanistan's electoral bodies.

President Karzai won the 2009 presidential election, which was criticised for widespread fraud. The IEC in particular was singled out for failing to deal with electoral irregularities.

But earlier this year President Karzai accused foreign election observers of fraud during last year's controversial vote and also attempted to alter key election laws.

New appointments

Fazel Manawi was also a member of the Independent Election Commission during last year's vote.

He has promised to remove officials responsible for the fraud. He told the Reuters news agency that he wanted to bring in the changes in time for Afghanistan's September parliamentary polls.

Western donor countries, which had threatened to block election funding if there is no reform, have welcomed Mr Manawi's appointment.

The UN-backed Election Complaints Commission (ECC) is a five member watchdog which comprises three Afghans and two foreigners.

Judge Johann Kriegler, a former chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, and Safwat Sidqi, who sat on a similar body in Iraq were appointed to the new positions there by the UN.

In April, Afghanistan's parliament rejected a presidential decree that would give President Karzai more control over the ECC.

But President Karzai endorsed the two appointments.

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