Afghan Parliament Rejects New Vote Decision

Afghanistan's parliament on Wednesday rejected a decision by the war-torn country's vote authorities to replace nine MPs as part of efforts to settle a long-running dispute over last year's elections.

After almost a year of street protests and controversy over last September's fraud-tainted parliamentary polls, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) this week ordered that nine MPs be replaced.

However, the lower house of parliament has now voted to oppose these changes, a spokesman for the most powerful bloc in parliament said.

"In today's session, we unanimously rejected the new IEC decision to replace nine MPs. The parliament won't allow even a single change in the composition of the parliament," said Assadullah Saadati, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Law Coalition said.

The Law Coalition strongly opposes any alteration to the make-up of the parliament and has been behind many of the protests.

The IEC was assigned by President Hamid Karzai to make the final ruling in the nearly year-long row over election disputes.

But the issue is highly controversial in Afghanistan and has prompted a string of angry protests on the streets of Kabul by supporters of rival politicians in recent months.

On Tuesday, up to 700 Afghans marched through Kabul to protest against the decision, chanting anti-U.N. slogans and accusing the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) of interfering in the process.

In June, a special election tribunal backed by Karzai ruled that 62 lawmakers, a quarter of the lower house of parliament, should be expelled. However, the IEC's final ruling fell well short of that figure.

Sources close to the issue told Agence France Presse that Karzai was on Wednesday trying to settle the dispute by meeting key members of the parliament and influential clerics in his palace.

"Everybody is trying to settle this down," an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Source: Agence France Presse

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