Western diplomats have expressed deep concern at a decree from Afghan President Hamid Karzai granting him total control over a key election body.
The move gives him the power to appoint all five members of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).
The watchdog helped expose massive fraud in last year’s presidential poll, forcing Mr Karzai into a second vote.
The decree comes as Nato-led forces fight a major operation against the Taliban in central Helmand province.
The BBC has been told the outgoing UN representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had struck a private deal that two of the five commission members would be foreigners.
Under that agreement, one of the appointees was expected to have veto power.
Chris Morris, BBC News, Kabul
Western diplomats in Kabul are still chewing over the potential implications of the presidential decree, and waiting on a precise translation of the long text from Dari into English.
Part of the concern is that even if Mr Karzai has no intention of misusing the power to make appointments, it simply doesn’t look good, especially at a time when trying to entrench transparent democracy is one of the goals of the international mission.
On the other hand there is a lot of talk of “Afghanisation” – of Afghans taking more control over their own affairs.
And there are those who argue that the electoral process should not be immune from that. So the small print, the legal detail of what the decree says, and how it will be interpreted, will be critical.
But the deal does not feature in the new decree.
The commission – which previously had three foreign experts appointed by the United Nations – will play a vital role in this year’s parliamentary poll.
2010-02-23 16:16:46 UTC