President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday signed into law reforms that remove foreign UN representatives from Afghanistan's electoral complaints watchdog ahead of key polls due next year.
The changes were approved by MPs in parliament on Monday and will keep in place the Election Complaints Commission (ECC) that was integral to unmasking massive levels of fraud at the last presidential election in 2009.
The Afghan government ordered last year that the organisation be replaced by a special tribunal appointed directly by Karzai, raising fears from rights groups that it would water down efforts to clampdown on electoral abuse.
The 14-member commission of MPs on Monday approved keeping the ECC, but said it could no longer include two foreign, UN representatives, bowing to a key Karzai demand. Instead its five members will all be Afghans.
In the 2009 presidential election, the ECC investigated thousands of complaints, most of them related to alleged ballot-rigging by Karzai supporters.
The watchdog ordered ballots from 210 polling stations to be disqualified in a probe that ultimately forced Karzai to accept a second-round run-off, which was ultimately abandoned when his opponent Abdullah Abdullah pulled out.
MPs say the ECC will retain full power to throw out fraudulent votes and it alone can announce the final election result.
Under the new law, members will be appointed by a selection committee, which will include the speakers of both houses of parliament, the Supreme Court and human rights commission, and a civil society representative.
The same panel will also appoint the head of the Independent Election Commission, which is responsible for the administration of the polls and who was previously appointed by Karzai.
"I sign into effect, the law for structures, authorities and duties of the elections commission and electoral complaints commission," Karzai announced in a decree.
"This decree has come into effect after being signed," he added.
In May, parliament approved an election law that defines voting mechanisms, sets conditions for candidacy, and explains how votes are tallied.
Karzai has not yet signed those clauses into law.
Afghanistan is due to hold its presidential election in April next year.
Karzai is due to step down after serving a maximum two terms as president, with a new leader taking over in the country's first-ever democratic transfer of power
Local think tank, Afghanistan Analysis and Awareness, welcomed the reforms as an "important milestone in creating the right framework for ensuring democratic elections and strengthening the foundations of Afghanistan's young democracy".