Afghan election body throws out nine lawmakers

DVBP334 4 P 0619 AFG /AFP-VL89 Afghanistan-politics-vote 4thlead Afghan election body throws out nine lawmakers by Sardar Ahmad =(Picture)= ATTENTION - ADDS lawmakers' reax /// KABUL, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - Afghanistan's election commission on Sunday threw nine lawmakers out of parliament in a bid to settle nearly a year of disputes over fraud-tainted elections that have paralysed the lower house. Although President Hamid Karzai tasked the Independent Election Commission (IEC) with making a final ruling, lawmakers rejected the move as "illegal" and it was unclear whether the decision would lead to more angry protests. The issue has already prompted large demonstrations on the streets of Kabul in recent weeks, as US-led NATO combat troops start initial withdrawals from the troubled country in a process due to be completed by the end of 2014. "Nine people... from eight provinces are reinstated and nine people will have to leave their seats," said Fazil Ahmad Manawi, IEC chairman. Among the replacement lawmakers arriving in parliament are Ahmad Khan, a powerful warlord from northern Samangan province, and a brutal former militia leader, Gul Mohammad Pahlawan, from Faryab, also in the north. The IEC said that the nine had initially won their seats according to preliminary results in last September's polls, but were stripped of their victories by the Election Complaints Commission over fraud claims. "The reasons for their removal were not enough... so the IEC decided to reinstate those nine persons," Manawi said. Parliament has been at a virtual standstill since January, when it was sworn in, because of the dispute over whether candidates should be kicked out over vote fraud, and if so how many. Karzai is due to endorse the new results, said an official at his palace, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. But a senior member of parliament, claiming to speak on behalf of the 249-member house, rejected the decision. "Any amendment in the composition of the parliament is illegal. No one or entity, including the IEC, has the right to bring changes to the parliament," Ahmad Behzad, the second deputy speaker, told AFP. Asked whether street protests were planned, Asadullah Saadati, spokesman for the parliamentary opposition group The Law Coalition, said: "We'll stand against it with whatever it takes, considering the requirements of the time." A Karzai-backed special election tribunal ruled in June that 62 lawmakers should be expelled, a quarter of the Wolesi Jirga, and Daud Sultanzoi, head of an informal grouping of their 62 replacements, also rejected the IEC's move. Commentators had widely predicted that the IEC ruling may not be the end of the standoff. Earlier this week Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts Network wrote: "This last chapter of the scuffle is likely be messy as the various sides are mobilising their people and using increasingly heated language. "The standoff has harmed the legitimacy of all three powers of government, who now feel justified to consistently contest each other's authorities." Karzai had handed the IEC the authority to resolve the issue, albeit based on previous court rulings, including that of the special tribunal, to which the IEC has long been opposed. The election used a single non-transferable vote system, a format adopted in few other countries, which can lead to winners being elected with less than one percent of the vote if there are large numbers of candidates. Under it, each constituency has multiple representatives but each voter only has one vote. sak-ayv/jm/slb AFP 211247 GMT AUG 11