Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Karzai faces fresh election criticisms -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: The former head of Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission today condemned
President Hamid Karzai for signing a decree that gives the President the power to appoint all
members of the electoral fraud watchdog.

Afghanistan is due to hold parliamentary elections in September and its presidential poll last year
was marred by massive electoral fraud, which was exposed by the complaints commission.

When it led last year's electoral fraud investigation, the ECC had three foreign experts appointed
by the United Nations on its board. President Karzai said his decree is intended to 'Afghanise' the
electoral process.

A short time ago, I spoke to the Canadian who was the head of the Electoral Complaints Commission
during the presidential elections, Grant Kippen.

Mr Kippen spoke to me from Ottawa.

Do you see this as payback, so people like you, who as head of this organisation during last year's
presidential poll exposed widespread electoral fraud?

GRANT KIPPEN: Well, I'm concerned that all the work that had gone into building up the capacity of
the Electoral Complaints Commission is at risk now. Not so much from a person perspective, but you
know the ECC comprises of about 260, 270 people and many donors including the Australian Government
put millions of dollars into the ECC and what's at risk now is these people may not be able to have
jobs.

ELEANOR HALL: Western nations in Afghanistan have been keen to hand more control to locals in areas
like security, President Karzai simply wants to 'Afghanise' the election process in his country.
What's wrong with that?

GRANT KIPPEN: Well, I think a lot of people are worried or concerned that the 'Afghanisation' while
it's good in principle is really going to compromise the independence of the Electoral Complaints
Commission.

ELEANOR HALL: Heading the ECC, was a dangerous job, you had death threats; would you supervise
Afghan elections in future under this new model?

GRANT KIPPEN: Uh, well I don't think the new model calls for any international participation. There
have been reports that the UN has been trying to negotiate some sort of deal with President Karzai
to have one or two internationals involved, but the decree that's come out doesn't appear to allow
for any internationals to be appointed.

ELEANOR HALL: So what do you think is the likelihood that a watchdog appointed by President Karzai
will manage to prevent fraud at the parliamentary elections in September?

GRANT KIPPEN: Well just based on what happened last year, I think it's unlikely. I think what's
needed now is a commitment and collective effort to honestly and objectively look at the problems
that came about from last year's election and look at where the solutions lie with respect to
resources and timelines, so that changes, reforms can be made in advance of the parliamentary
elections, which are supposed to take place in September.

ELEANOR HALL: Given President Karzai's precarious win in the presidential poll last year and the
taint of fraud that still hangs around that election, does it surprise you that he would issue such
a decree?

GRANT KIPPEN: Well, I don't know, I mean I don't want to second guess his motives, but I think
it's, we've lost an enormous opportunity here and I think the President has as well. I don't think
putting together a decree, uh, in this manner while the recent Wolesi Jirga was in recess without
any sort of public input is going to do much in building back public confidence in the process
going forward.

ELEANOR HALL: Should the UN withhold money for the September elections or would that be
counterproductive?

GRANT KIPPEN: Well, I think at the end of the day you've got to think what's going to be productive
for Afghan's themselves and certainly that's something that they're going to have to address. But
the international community is not going to do that in isolation. It's got to work with Afghan
partners.

ELEANOR HALL: Still though, I mean how embarrassing is this for those world leaders who have talked
about getting rid of corruption; how embarrassing is a move like this from Karzai when they've been
supporting his presidency?

GRANT KIPPEN: well, my sense from people I've been talking to in the last 24, 48 hours is there is
a lot of concern from the diplomatic community in Kabul and in other countries around the world.
And I think they're looking to determine what their options are, how they're going to be able to
communicate their concerns to, to Mr Karzai and his government.

But I think we need to make sure that we remain engaged there and to pick up and leave isn't the
solution here.

ELEANOR HALL: As you said earlier though, it seems to be a suggestion here that you're not welcome
at least?

GRANT KIPPEN: (Laughs) Well, I'm not so much worried about myself. I'm worried about what we've
been able to do so far, and whether that, building up those institutions and processes in
particular, those Afghans that did a phenomenal job on the ECC last time around in 2009 - will be
able to do that job going forward.

Also those Afghans that participated in the elections, those that wanted to, but didn't for various
reasons, you know, we need to be focused on Afghanistan and I'm not too much worried if I get visa
or not.

ELEANOR HALL: Grant Kippen, thanks very much for joining us.

GRANT KIPPEN: Thank you very much. Bye bye.