Afghans Protest Decision to Oust Lawmakers

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of Afghans marched in Kabul Tuesday to protest a decision by the nation's Independent Election Commission to replace nine lawmakers because of allegations of voter fraud.

The protesters rallied outside the offices of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, chanting anti-U.N. slogans. UNAMA issued a statement earlier in the day in support of the IEC's decision to dismiss the parliament members, calling it a help to end a “long institutional impasse.”

Police in riot gear lined the streets of the Afghan capital during Tuesday's demonstration. No violence was reported.

The Independent Election Commission on Sunday called for the replacement of nine of the 62 lawmakers who had been previously ordered removed by a special tribunal amid fraud allegations.

Commission chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi said the nine unseated lawmakers come from eight Afghan provinces. He said they will be replaced by nine new lawmakers, including a powerful former militia leader in northern Afghanistan, Gul Mohammad Pahlawan.

Some Afghan lawmakers denounced the commission's move as illegal. The lower house of parliament has been in limbo since its inauguration in January because of accusations of massive fraud in the September 2010 election.

A special tribunal set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a ruling in June, calling for 62 lawmakers to be disqualified for fraud — one quarter of the 249-seat assembly. Mr. Karzai later scrapped the court after critics accused him of using it to reshape the parliament more to his liking.

Mr. Karzai issued a decree earlier this month giving the Independent Election Commission the final say on election complaints.