With only nine months to go before the scheduled parliamentary and district council elections, President Ashraf Ghani has fired his own hand-picked Independent Election Commission (IEC) Chairman Najibullah Ahmadzai.
The news broke on Wednesday night after the Presidential Palace released a presidential decree calling for a replacement to be found for Ahmadzai.
“On the basis of the decision dated 21 Aqrab (12 November) and the demands of the Independent Election Commission about the dismissal of Najibullah Ahmadzai from the membership of the commission, it is hereby directed that the concerned institutions introduce new candidates to fill the vacant post of one of the commission members,” a presidential decree issued from the presidential palace reads.
This comes a few hours after Ahmadzai reacted to reports about calls for his resignation and said he will decide on whether to step down once he has discussed the matter with President Ashraf Ghani.
In an interview with TOLOnews, Ahmadzai claimed that Ghani’s advisor Akram Khplwak is pressurizing him to resign.
“Akram Khplwak, the head of the High Peace Council secretariat and President’s (Ghani) advisor sets a deadline everyday and asks me to resign. This act is against democracy,” Ahmadzai said.
In addition to this pressure, five of the seven members of the IEC have signed a letter calling for Ahmadzai to be fired. The letter has been sent to the president.
In reaction to this, Ahmadzai said the five IEC members have sent the letter because of mounting pressure on them by the second vice president Mohammad Sarwar Danish.
“When they (Presidential Palace) asked me to resign, they told me at the time that the commissioners would write something against me; either due to pressure or in exchange for money. This is a conspiracy,” he said.
The IEC chairman said the upcoming elections would face many challenges if he steps down from his post.
“Is it a solution if I resign? Who will guarantee that the upcoming elections will be okay? I want the president himself to summon me and ask me (to resign)… I have that much respect for the president,” Ahmadzai said.
Ahmadzai was appointed as head of the IEC one year ago after he was picked by the election commission’s selection committee and his appointment approved by government leaders.
According to the law, if Ahmadzai resigns or is fired, government would have to review the previous list of shortlisted applicants and select a new chairman from there. If no one is found to be eligible for the post then the application and selection process would have to start again from scratch.