Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [official website] ratified two new election laws on Wednesday. The UN had pressed the president to improve the election commission he had threatened to disperse after it disqualified 25 percent of the 2009 ballots, sparking violence across the country. By reinvigorating the Independent Election Commission [official website] and establishing an independent commission for voting complaints, the UN is hoping for a peaceful democratic transition when Karzai steps down from office, as a genuine democratic election is a prerequisite for billions of dollars in foreign aide through the UN. Although the composition of the commissions has not yet been determined, the law provides for a committee of human rights activists, UN experts and other specialists to appoint the members of each. The UN Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom [NYU profile], expressed cautious optimism [NYT report] about the news laws.
The Afghan Parliament [official website] approved the new laws [JURIST report] in May. These developments come as a direct result of an April 2012 Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) announcement that it would change the country's parliamentary election proceedings in an effort to eliminate future fraud. That announcement was the result of problems with the previous election and nearly led to the dissolution of the IEC after its decisions sparked widespread violence in 2009. In August 2011 Karzai dissolved [JURIST report] the special elections court that he had created to investigate election fraud in parliamentary elections. The court was criticized as a vehicle for overturning the electoral gains made by many of Karzai's political opponents. In June 2011 the court had invalidated the election results [JURIST Report] of nearly 25 percent of the assembly seats. Karzai then ordered that the seating of parliament be delayed [JURIST report] by a month in order to further investigate the findings.