Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

A War of Letters between Special Court and Parliament

Thomas Ruttig 3 min

With reports that the Special Election Court will call 53 ‘sitting’ MPs to court over alleged fraud during the 2010 elections, the tug-of-war between the Court (with the President in the background) and Parliament goes into another round. The MPs, already in a protest against Karzai’s failure to fill the remaining cabinet posts, answer with a ‘no surrender’ letter. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Gran Hewad take a look at this seemingly unending ‘capture not to be captured’ post-electoral warfare.

Afghanistan’s MPs have been in strike action that is unusual for a parliament: Since more than a week they refuse to debate. They sit still in the house and only from time to time let steam out by banging their desks, giving them some fun in a frustrating situation. The reason: They want to show their indignation to the President that he still has not made good of his promise to introduce the remaining seven ministers for a vote of confidence and force him to finally oblige (see an earlier blog on these developments here). In order to show that they are serious, they even had not gone into their summer recess which had actually started on 5 June. Now it is almost over without having ever started and the President is still ignoring them. He even chose to travel to Kazakhstan, instead, to participate as a guest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
The MPs’ nemesis, the Special Electoral Court that has been investigating alleged fraud cases in the 2010 vote since December last year, has even added more spice into the simmering parliamentary pot. The court has taken steps in the last days to take, as it transpired, 53 MPs to court on 20 June. This includes a letter to the Presidential Office informing of its decisions, sent in copy to the Parliament and the IEC, too.

The names of the 53 MPs apparently have not been mentioned in the letter. Their public disclosure before the court’s decision would be illegal, so the court will inform them directly by phone according to officials from the Lower House secretariat. No MP contacted would confirm that he has already received the fateful call, to avoid acknowledging the shame of the accusation.

To make matters even more opaque, an IEC spokesperson told a journalist colleague that the date of the court session is unclear, while another rejected receiving a letter from the special court at all. A special court official hung up the phone when approached by us, while the head of the court, Sediqullah Haqiqi, letTolonews know that ‘we are just doing justice, I have nothing else to comment’.

Daikundi MP Assadullah Sadati also did not want to confirm the existence of the letter when talking to AAN and added that ‘even if there is one, none of the MPs will attend the court session because we do not recognize the special court.’ According to the electoral law, it is the IEC’s authority to announce the elections’ final result, and this is something the special court understands: That’s why it reportedly plans only to present its finding about fraud in the 20 June session but will not draw any public conclusion, i.e. it will avoid saying directly which MP should lose his/her mandate and who would replace him/her. That will leave the final decision still with the IEC.

The MPs have reacted by writing an open letter and collecting signatures for it, demanding – for the third time since the announcement of the final electoral results last November – the dissolution of the dreaded tribunal. It does not carry a concrete address, but is meant for, as Sadati told us, ‘the president of the country, the UN, and the nation of Afghanistan’ making them aware that the parliament is ‘standing against an ongoing illegitimate process’. According to him, 140 MPs already have signed the letter – which would be a majority – and ‘promised in it that if the court had made a decision to change even a single MP, we will boycott the parliament forever’.

The union of the protesting candidates who – according to the IEC’s final result – have lost in the vote, obviously sees things differently. Daud Sultanzoy, one of its most outspoken members, told AAN on the phone that the open letter is a ‘sensitive move’ and ‘an intervention of the legislative power into the judicial sphere which is undermining the separation of the powers of the state’. The MPs sitting in parliament, he claims, are just interested in keeping their seats and doing nothing else.

It seems that the Special Courts again turns out to be useful instrument for the President. With him focusing mainly on the smooth organization of the Loya Jirga on the US-Afghan strategic agreement and many MPs strictly against (they see it undermining their authority), he can appeal to their self-interest: you allow my Loya Jirga, and I keep you in your lucrative seats.

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Democratization Government

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