Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Parliament Crisis: Impeachment and Other Threats

Thomas Ruttig 4 min

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) which had seen its final result for the 18 September election undermined by series of manoeuvres culminating in the establishment of the Special Election Court, has re-entered the arena. Trying to solve the months-long parliamentary crisis, it has submitted a proposal that intends to cut through the Gordian knot – but it backfired. The IEC is now under threat of criminal proceedings itself, while the lower house is getting more serious on impeaching the President. A new, broad parliamentary opposition is emerging that could support this – if not someone soon puts on the emergency brake, AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Gran Hewad think.

The IEC has finally entered the fray again. With its chairman Fazl Ahmad Manawi who was travelling abroad while the crisis escalated back in Afghanistan now, it has submitted a promising 6-point plan to the President’s office. (Later it turned out that the first five points were insignificant or related to the demand to dissolve the special court.) In article 6, it politely recognized the President’s sole authority over all three powers of the government, expresses it expectation of him to review the IEC’s recommendations and accredit them, assures that it will look into the evidence collected by the Special Court on electoral law violations of certain MPs and finally take legal decisions of them. The IEC underlines, however, that these decisions ‘cannot undermine the finality of the electoral results’.
And then comes the big ‘but’: in cases where candidates are ‘undeservedly’ sitting in the Wolesi Jirga (WJ), ‘the IEC will definitely not compromise justice’. Although the statement sounds very principled, the point last mentioned opens up a backdoor for changes in the WJ composition. It basically hands over a new chance to the government to put even more pressure on the MPs.

The President summoned a whole lot of advisors, members of the high council of the Supreme Court and of the constitution oversight commission, the Minister of Justice as well as his legal and security team, to the palace on 7 July to look into the IEC proposal – and out came another commission. Consisting of the chairman and a member of Constitutional Oversight Commission, Gul Rahman Qazi and Abdulqadir Adalatkhwah, SC member Zamen Ali Behsudi, justice minister Habibullah Ghaleb and the head of the President’s judicial and legal board Nasrullah Stanakzai, they distilled the following two out of the IECs six points:

1 – As the Special Court decisions are not final, they are open for an appeal process. Furthermore, its dealing so far only covered the civil law dimension of alleged electoral fraud but not its criminal side. (There are pending case forwarded to the courts by the Attorney General’s office on 413 candidates (read our earlier blog on this here) but the commission also mentioned in particular ‘IEC staff that has been accused of abusing the law’ and that it should be prosecuted’ now;

2 – The documents of the IEC and the verdicts of the special court should indeed be adjusted by the IEC. Then, its findings must be handed over to the appeal court for a final decision.

This basically takes matters out of the hands of the IEC, and on top of it threatens its personnel with legal action. For the MPs, inside and outside the WJ, a final decision about who will finally have on the precious 249 seats is still not insight. And all this at a time when the government is planning to convene a Loya Jirga, negotiating a strategic partnership agreement with the US, trying to reconcile with the Taleban and preparing the Bonn 2 conference – but at the same time key factors which could provide it with legitimacy for all this are missing: namely a functioning legislative, a complete Supreme Court (with three members acting including the chief justice) and cabinet.

On the opposite side, voices are becoming stronger in the Wolesi Jirga who want to impeach the President, a move most of them would still have not seriously considered only last week.

A coalition in the Wolesi Jirga is emerging, broader than everything seen there so far after 2001 and even in the history of the Afghan parliamentary democracy. It is called the Parliamentary Alliance for the Support of the Law’ (Etelaf-e parlamani-ye hemayat az qanun), has opened an office on 7 July next to the parliament and claims already a majority of MPs signed in it membership lists – they say 182, with more having promised to join. This coalition might be able to pull off an impeachment, if it sticks together and individuals do not give in to the lure of ‘incentives’ which will definitely be offered.

Significantly, it includes a large part of Pashtun MPs from Haji Zaher Qadir’s Karwan-e Solh (‘Peace Convoy’) parliamentary group. Haji Zaher is one of the four speakers of the coalition, together with the almost ‘old time’ opposition figures Yonus Qanuni and Fawzia Kufi as well as former Hazara warlord Muhammad Mohaqqeq, who had been cruising between the government and opposition camps, always trying to protect his minority group. This group is seriously considering to applying Article 69 of the constitution which provides that parliament can impeach the president when acting against the national interests. Its members argue that if he doesn’t show himself able to solve the current conflict around the parliament and doesn’t respect the law (which they see on their and the IEC’s side) than there are enough reasons to impeach him, a member of coalition told AAN.

One MP told AAN that ‘there are 47 points on which the parliament can indict the president for national treason, the strongest of these points being taking cash from Iran outside of the official budget, spending $80 million of Kabul Bank loans for his presidential campaign and not defending Afghan citizens against Pakistan recent attacks which took more than 50 Afghan lives in the eastern and south eastern provinces’.

The leader of the opposition movement Change and Hope (Taghir wa Omid), former presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah, has already provided the coalition with arguments. On 4 July, he sent an open letter to the president, parliament and the Supreme Court arguing that if the president set the constitution as one red line for reconcilable Taleban, he also should accept it as a red line for his own actions and dissolve the unconstitutional Special Election Court and introduce the three missing SC judges to parliament.

Haji Zaher picked that up in the WJ plenary session and pointed to the double standards applied to the house by the executive: ‘When the house is passing the budget, it is considered legitimate; when the Indian Prime Minister is speaking in the house, it is considered legitimate – but [we are not considered legitimate] when the government doesn’t like it. So, are we thieves, or are we MPs?’

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Democratization Government IEC

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