By Hamid Shalizi and Dylan Welch
KABUL (Reuters) - Opposition Afghan politicians accused the government of giving its allies posts in an electoral complaints commission, saying the appointments could undermine next year's presidential vote.
The ballot will be seen as a key test of Afghanistan as it prepares for the departure of most Western forces at the end of 2014 amidst a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency.
President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet Secretariat announced the five members of the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC) on Monday.
His spokesman Aimal Faizi told Reuters they were all were all independent and respected members of Afghan society "appointed in full accordance with the law and all relevant legal mechanisms."
But opposition figures said the commissioners' alleged links would raise questions over their judgment. Previous Afghan votes have been marred by complaints of electoral fraud.
"All of them are linked to the government and we don't expect they will properly scrutinize allegations of electoral fraud," said Hussain Sangcharaki, spokesman for Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who lost to Karzai in the last election in 2009.
Abdullah is expected to run again in the election on April 5 next year. Karzai has served two terms and cannot run again according to the constitution.
Monday also marked the opening of a three-week period for registration of candidates for the presidential election.
"The President obviously chose his own people, those loyal to his circle," said Kandahar MP Naeem Lalai Hameedzai.
Haji Zahir Qadir, an MP from eastern Nangarhar province, said voters would not tolerate any doubts over the validity of the vote.
"Karzai should know that if the commissioners conceal electoral fraud, the people will not sit quietly, they will rise up against the government," he said.
Four senior government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the new IECC members were all close to Karzai or his supporters.
In 2009, the IECC, then appointed mainly by the United Nations, said it had found "clear and convincing" evidence of fraud and ordered a partial recount of votes.
The United Nations later said irregularities identified by the IECC had been addressed.
(Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens)