Institutions: Karzai packs the electoral commission (BBC)

Quite apart from the obvious conclusions about corruption and power, I was struck by the range – or lack of – in the discussion on the BBC today on the packing of the Afghan Electoral Commission in the run up to parliamentary elections. The removal of foreign elements from the commission was the center of concern with Karzai appointing all members of the body. First, foreign observers might be just as corrupted by Karzai, or his sponsors. But the debate never imagined any Afghan opposition or civil society taking part as a check on power. West Africa, following the civil society led wave of democratization in the 1990s, made truly independent electoral commissions (usually under the French acronym CENI) the cornerstone of electoral transparency in most nations, with wide membership of all forces in society. The current crisis in Cote d'Ivoire points to their continued importance, if imperfection. These experiences, sadly, seem ignored elsewhere.

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