[JURIST] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] issued a decree Sunday allowing the country's Supreme Court [official website] to go forward with its plan to set up a tribunal to hear complaints of fraud during the September parliamentary elections [IEC backgrounder]. The tribunal brings doubt over the legitimacy of the elections which have already been tainted by irregularities that forced authorities to invalidate a significant number of votes and disqualify candidates. The decision comes less than a month before the 249-seat parliament is set to convene on January 20 but officials say Karzai is committed to inaugurating the parliament by then. The Supreme Court had initially suggested the tribunal after receiving a flood of complaints passed on by the Attorney General Office [official website]. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website], however, claims that no one has the authority to overturn the results of the election once it has certified them. The tribunal will consist [Reuters report] of a five-judge panel that will review all issues with the election including allegations of criminal fraud and intimidation at the polls.
The September parliamentary elections irregularities raise doubt over the ability of the Afghanistan government to lead. In November, the Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] disqualified 21 candidates [JURST report] for electoral fraud after finding widespread voting irregularities in 12 provinces. Of the disqualified candidates, 19 had either won or were leading in their districts, seven of which were incumbents, and two were second place finishers in districts where the first place finisher was also disqualified. In October, the IEC invalidated 1.3 million votes [JURIST report], nearly a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast nationwide, due to findings of fraud. The IEC found that the 2,543 polling stations where the votes had been cast did not follow IEC procedures. The 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive] of Karzai was also marred by fraud allegations.