I’m no useful idiot – Kriegler

2010-09-26 13:35

Retired Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler has dismissed suggestions that he is being used by the Afghan government to lend legitimacy to an allegedly dubious ­election.

Kriegler – appointed as one of two foreign commissioners on Afghanistan’s UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) – also hit out at international media for “talking up” claims of electoral fraud in the absence of sufficient proof, calling the reports “ill-concealed racism”.

Last Saturday Afghans went to the polls to elect candidates to fill 249 positions in the lower house of parliament. The election has been marred by widespread violence and claims of fraud and intimidation.

The parliamentary elections came a year after the country’s presidential elections, in which European Union election monitors reportedly found up to 1.5?million votes (a third of all votes) cast for President Hamid Karzai to be fraudulent.

Last week media reports centred on the circulation of thousands of fake voter registration cards, printed in Pakistan, being sold across ­Afghanistan.

Kriegler said there wasn’t “a culture of electoral integrity embedded in the people yet ... The infrastructure is still rudimentary, law and order is ephemeral and the rule of law is but a remote aspiration.”

Given the circumstances, he ­added, “not even the wildest optimist could have hoped for a ­violence-free election”.

And despite speculation that it was not possible to hold a free and fair election in Afghanistan right now, Kriegler was optimistic.

“What is the alternative? Reversion to ethnic savagery or surrender to the Taliban? I prefer to promote progress towards a society living free under the law?.?.?. and each election surmounted is a step towards that ideal.”

Although preliminary results were released on Friday, final results are only expected at the end of next month, once the ECC has investigated the various fraud complaints. The ECC is looking into 1?388 complaints relating to specific election-day irregularities.

The respected jurist has played various roles in adjudicating electoral complaints from East Timor to Kenya since 2008. Kriegler said he wasn’t sure what motivated him to participate in the election, except that he was “hooked on democracy and human rights. Besides, Betty (his wife) said it would be fun”.

Kriegler said the media focus ­ignored the “courage and determination” of the ECC and the Afghan people themselves, in conducting an election in such a trying environment. “Painting everything Afghan with a broad corruption brush … is a perennial cheap shot,” he said.

Given all the issues surrounding this election, it was suggested that the presence of the internationally-renowned lawyer and human rights campaigner on the ECC could be used to rubber stamp a flawed electoral process.

“The suggestion is that I’m either a willing collaborator in electoral fraud or a useful idiot,” he said. “I don’t think I’m either.”

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