Afghan Resigns From Electoral Complaints Commission

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- One of five members of the Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan resigned Monday amid the group's probe of allegations of voting fraud during last summer's presidential election.

Mustafa Barakzai, a supreme court judge, was one of two Afghan members of the commission. His departure comes as the commission nears completion in the investigation of allegations of fraud in the August 20 elections

Local news reports have quoted Barakzai as saying that the commission is unduly influenced by foreigners and that it has not included him in the decision-making process.

The head of the commission, Grant Kippen, disputed both assertions.

"He was involved in our major decisions," Kippen told CNN. "We are only a five-member team. Every member is integral to our work."

Kippen is one of three non-Afghans on the Electoral Complaints Commission appointed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Kippen said the "vast majority of our decisions were consensus decisions."

The commission said in a statement that it is "disappointed at the resignation of an important member" at a crucial time in the process.

"The (commission) remains dedicated to the elections process and will continue to work openly and honestly in the implementation of its mandate under the Afghan Electoral Law," the statement said. "This will not distract the (commission) from continuing to focus on the task at hand."

Complaints of irregularities have dogged the presidential elections. The top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, admitted Sunday that the vote was marred by "widespread fraud."

Eide's recently fired deputy Peter Galbraith told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday that Eide earlier refused to share details of voting irregularities with Afghan election officials. Galbraith also said his former boss could have prevented some fraud by closing unsecured polling stations.

Eide on Sunday denied the allegations of withholding information and defended his decisions to open as many polling stations as possible, despite security concerns.

With findings of the fraud complaints investigation upcoming, Galbraith said he anticipates the commission will determine that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will not have enough votes to avoid a runoff.

"I think there's a very strong likelihood that the election complaints commission will find that he's below 50 percent, and then the question is whether Karzai will accept that decision and whether the Independent Election Commission, which is not independent, but a pro-Karzai body, will accept that decision," Galbraith said.

"If they don't, then the political crisis in Afghanistan, which has already done such damage to the overall effort there, will get much worse."

The Independent Election Commission, is expected to soon finish an audit and recount of suspicious ballots; the results could be announced this week. The independent commission is a "constitutional body" that conducts "free and fair elections" in an "impartial way" according to its Web site.

Galbraith has also accused Barakzai of favoring incumbent Karzai, even though the Electoral Complaints Commission says that it is also an independent body.

Election tallies have yet to be certified because of the allegations. Last month, final uncertified results showed Karzai with 54 percent of the vote.


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