President Hamid Karzai took control of Afghanistan’s independent election-watchdog agency, a move that drew scorn from opposition politicians and appeared to consolidate his hold on power ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year.
…Western diplomats say they fear the move could further undermine the already low credibility of Afghanistan’s electoral institutions, and lead to widespread fraud in favor of Mr. Karzai’s supporters during the parliamentary elections. Western officials have already pushed Mr. Karzai to postpone the parliamentary vote, originally scheduled for May, until September.
…The presidential palace said the decision was an important step in bringing Afghanistan’s institutions fully under Afghan control. “We believe that today Afghans are ready to take over the leading role in every aspect of governance,” said Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for the president. “Eight years ago, the Afghan government didn’t have the capacity and ability of independent governance. â€¦ Now it is time to hand over the burden to the Afghans and let them to take the lead.”
The Afghan government still expects its Western backers to help pay for and manage the commission. “We still need the financial and technical support of the international community,” Mr. Elmi said.