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No foreign “interference” in Afghan election?

Afghanistan's President Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul

— Afghan President Hamid Karzai suggested on Thursday that foreign members be removed from the country’s election watchdog, in a step that could be aimed at bolstering his grip on power.

Two members of the five-member Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) are non-Afghan, a panel backed by the U.N. which threw out more than half a million votes cast for Karzai as fraudulent in the 2009 presidential poll.

“The presence of foreigners in the Electoral Complaints Commission is against the sovereignty of Afghanistan,” Karzai told a news conference alongside NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the capital, Kabul.

“Foreign observers can still come to monitor the transparency or non-transparency of the election, but their interference in the election process is against Afghanistan’s sovereignty.”

This is not the first time Karzai has intervened in the operations of the ECC.

In 2010, a year after he won a second five-year term as president, he changed a law to take control of the watchdog, allowing himself to appoint the panel members. But he left two foreigners in place on the body.

Before that, three foreign members were chosen by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

“One of the reasons Karzai wants foreigners out of the ECC is because in the past it was the foreigners who spoke out about fraud,” Mohiuddin Mahdi, a member of parliament from northern Baghlan province, told Reuters by telephone.

Karzai’s chief spokesman Aimal Faizi said “the meddling by some foreign countries and embassies in the 2009 presidential election was a good lesson for Afghanistan”.

“We will not allow the foreigners to be part of the election process,” Faizi told Reuters….(Reuters)

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