20.07.2013 14:54

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan
president on Saturday approved a new
law governing next year's presidential
and provincial elections, an important
step toward a smooth transition of
power in 2014 and the final withdrawal
of all remaining foreign combat forces
from the country.
Hamid Karzai's office said he signed a
decree endorsing the law, which defines
the legal framework for the elections
and which was approved by parliament
earlier this week.
The law is supported by Afghanistan's
international sponsors and Karzai's
approval was widely expected. Foreign
donors have made holding free and
transparent elections a key requirement
for their continued funding.
In early July, representatives from 40
countries reaffirmed pledges of $16
billion in support for Afghanistan, but
cited the approval of two new election
laws as a condition.
Last week, Karzai approved another law
defining the role and structure of the
country's electoral watchdog and
election commission. The two laws had
been debated in parliament for months
and were finally given the green light
by a joint commission made up of
Afghanistan's upper and lower house.
The balloting for a new president and
council members for Afghanistan's 34
provinces will be held April 5. Under
the new law, candidates have to submit
nominations for the presidential
election on Sept. 16.
Karzai, whose second five-year term
ends next year, cannot seek a third term
under the law. There have been worries
that he could delay the laws, either to
postpone the election in order to extend
his term in office, or to have the polls
on his own terms.
The European Union's ambassador to
Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, said the
new laws show Afghans can take their
future into their own hands.
"I am confident that President Karzai as
a statesman of his nation will do
everything possible to ensure a peaceful
transfer of power in 2014 through
inclusive and transparent elections,"
said Usackas, who had strongly lobbied
both Karzai and the parliament to
approve the legislation.
Karzai, who has the power to reject
legislation, has expressed no interest in
a third term, insisting he wants to retire
after the elections. But it still remains
unclear if he may seek to promote his
own candidate, including a brother who
is active in politics.
"We are encouraged by the adoption of
the law," said Nader Nadery, founder
and chairman of the Fair and Free
Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, a
local watchdog.
Nadery said the new law "is going to
provide a better base than the previous
legal structure" in place during the 2009
presidential elections.
Karzai's re-election was marred by
widespread allegations of corruption,
vote tampering and election fraud. He
denied the charges but the acrimonious
aftermath tainted his relationship with
the West and the United States.
The U.S. was one of Karzai's most vocal
critics and has been dealing with the
aftermath of the 2009 vote to this day.
Much of Karzai's bitterness and testy
relations with America is thought to
stem from his expressed belief that
Washington somehow sought to
engineer his loss in the polls.
Afghanistan's international financial
and military backers have said a smooth
transition during the presidential
election is necessary to ensure the
country's stability once all foreign
combat troops leave by the end of 2014.
NATO handed over the lead for security
around the country to Afghan forces last
June, as part of a phased withdrawal of
foreign troops over the next year and a
The handover paved the way for the
departure of coalition forces —
currently numbering about 100,000
troops from 48 countries, including
66,000 Americans.
By the end of the year, the NATO forces
will be halved. At the end of 2014, all
combat troops will have left and will be
replaced, if approved by the Afghan
government, by a much smaller force
that will only train and advise the
But violence has not abated around the
country and the Taliban and other
insurgents, emboldened by the
withdrawal, have increased attacks
against Afghan security forces,
especially in places where coalition
forces have already withdrawn.
A wave of bombings late Friday in
southern Afghanistan killed 15 people,
including six members of the country's
security services, said Omar Zwak, a
spokesman for the governor of Helmand
The most deadly of the attacks was
when five members of the Afghan
intelligence service and a policeman
died when their vehicle hit a roadside
bomb in the Sangin district, Zwak said
on Saturday. Deputy head of Sangin's
intelligence service was among those
killed in the explosion.
Helmand police spokesman Shamim
Noorzia said three other bombings
killed six civilians and two police
Insurgents have increased attacks in
Helmand as foreign forces withdraw
from the area.