Abdullah for sacking of Afghan poll chief

KABUL: Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah called Monday for the firing of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) chief ahead of a run-off poll next month.

Abdullah called for the “immediate dismissal” of Azizullah Ludin and his replacement with another member of the IEC, which critics slammed as biased in favour of President Hamid Karzai during fraud-tainted August elections.

“He has left no credibility for the institution,” Abdullah told reporters ahead of the run-off ballot on November 7.

“What’s the solution? Another commissioner from the same commission should take his position,” the former foreign minister said.

The IEC is a nominally independent body but its members were appointed by Karzai and Ludin is a former presidential advisor.

Abdullah has repeatedly called for a shake-up of the IEC after a separate UN-backed commission rejected around a quarter of the votes from the August 20 first round because of fraud.

Abdullah said that his call for a new IEC head to be appointed rather than for a whole new commission was a “practical, technical” solution, given that the run-off is less than two weeks away.

He also called for the suspension of cabinet ministers whom he accused of breaching rules of impartiality by stumping for votes for Karzai even before the start of campaigning in the first round, identifying the interior, education and tribal affairs ministers.

“The ministers that were involved in campaigning in the first round even before campaign season... should be suspended of their duties,” he said.

So-called ghost polling stations — where security was so fragile they did not open, but nevertheless returned huge numbers of ballots — should not open this time round, he added.

Abdullah said his demands were the “minimum” needed for a fair second round but

refused to say what would happen if his conditions were not met. “These are

the minimum conditions that we came up with in order to have minimum fair and free environment. This is what we are seeking.

“With the implementation of these conditions, we have a chance for the

people of Afghanistan ... to exercise their will in a better environment.”