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Afghan legislators approve new election law

KABUL — Afghan legislators on Monday approved a law to govern next year’s presidential and provincial council elections, a key step toward conducting the polls.

The law needs to be signed by President Hamid Karzai. Another law regulating the responsibilities of the electoral management bodies was passed over the weekend. Karzai also needs to sign off on that one. It was not known when Karzai would act.

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Nelofer Ibrahimi, a parliamentarian from Badakhshan province, and Shah Gul Rezayee, a deputy from Ghazni, said the law was passed by a joint commission of 14 deputies from the upper and lower houses of Parliament.

‘‘Both houses of the Parliament gave their authorization to the joint commission, and the commission decision is final and acceptable by both houses of the Parliament,’’ Rezayee said.

If endorsed by Karzai, completion of the two laws would clear the way for the elections on April 5 next year.

Karzai, whose second five-year term ends next year, is not allowed by law to seek a third.

The electoral law defines the legal framework for the elections, while the structural measure governs the independent electoral commission and the appointment of its senior officials.

The Parliament has been debating the laws for several months. Their implementation is considered key for ensuring transparent and fair polls. After the approval of the structural law, the UN mission in Afghanistan urged Karzai to quickly enact the legislation.

Afghanistan’s international backers have said a smooth transition during the presidential elections is necessary to ensure the country’s stability once all foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014.

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