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Karzai worried about electoral fraud... really?

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No, not really, though the official line is that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has delayed the opening of the new parliament by a month to help an electoral fraud investigation.

If he sticks to that schedule, five months will have passed without a parliament. In that period, Karzai has ruled without any oversight at all (not that the last parliament had much real input in policy making). The only point for the delay -- requested by a panel of investigators selected by Mr. Karzai -- is to toss out some of the winners

It's no secret that the parliamentary election was riddled with fraud. Ditto, of course, for the election that returned Mr. Karzai -- once described by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as "inadequate strategic partner" -- to power. Mr. Karzai certainly won't be voiding his own election win, nor does it seem likely this process will toss out close allies.

The vote buying, intimidation and ballot-stuffing that accompanied the September election was an equal opportunity affair, with winners often simply outbidding losers -- many of whom remain waiting in the wings, and would probably be more acquiescent to President Karzai's wishes than some of the current winners.

Ahead of the vote, the Afghan electoral complaints commission was supposed to disqualify militia leaders from running. Ahead of the election some candidates were disqualified, but as I wrote at the time: "None of the well-known commanders who many Afghans believe committed war crimes in the past were on the list. And it appears that many of those disqualified aren't involved with militias." Who drew up the list? Afghan officials who answer to Mr. Karzai, not the supposedly independent commission, electoral officials told me.


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