Several weeks have passed since the President’s inauguration on 19 November and the waiting is now for the announcement of the new Cabinet – an event that as usual has been imminent for quite a while. The Parliament has delayed its recess, which was to begin on 6 December, so that it can vote on the Cabinet as soon as the names are known.
The Parliament has continued meeting in plenary sessions, even though it struggles to reach a quorum, and has used the time to discuss and re-discuss the mid-term budget. And although the MPs after several sessions had been persuaded that the explanations given by the Minister of Finance were satisfactory, they have now decided to send the document back for further improvements. In the meantime the MPs that went to Mecca on Haj, often on government expenses, are slowly trickling back into the country.
The Parliament has been told that the ministerial candidates will be introduced to them this coming Monday. So today they decided to tackle the contentious issue of dual nationality, in an attempt to reach a common position before the discussion becomes personal and factional again. The issue has clouded all earlier votes of confidence, leading to heated debates and re-interpretations of the laws in order to facilitate the voting in or out of certain individuals or factions.
The problem is that the Constitution – as in many other cases – is ambiguous on how the issue should be treated, stating (in article 72 sub 1) that “the individuals appointed as ministers shall have only the citizenship of Afghanistan. If a ministerial candidate has the citizenship of another country as well, the Wolesi Jirga shall have the right to approve or reject the nomination.”
So today’s discussion focused on whether the government should be allowed to introduce candidates with dual nationality or not, and if it does, whether Parliament should decide beforehand whether to accept dual nationality or not. During the 2005 ministerial vote similar discussions remained somewhat inconclusive, although candidates with dual nationality were made to provide proof that they had renounced their second nationality– before the vote took place. The issue then continued to resurface (and be instrumentalised) in the years after, whenever any of the ministers in question were otherwise vulnerable.
The discussions tend to revolve around whether those with dual nationality can be expected to properly serve their country, as they are assumed to have divided loyalties and a tendency to leave when things become difficult. There is also a social-factional dimension, as the returnees in question often represent a more liberal outlook, and – depending on who the candidates in question are – potentially also an ethnic one. Those in favour of a more flexible approach argue that the country currently needs expertise and that that should be the overriding criterion.
It is unlikely that the issue will be conclusively resolved before the vote takes place, but there does seem to be the possibility of a rather more cooperative parliament than has been the case in the past. This will however ultimately depend on both the individual candidates (how controversial are they to the various factions) and the perceived balance in the cabinet (have enough promises been kept and enough debts repaid).
And for those who are becoming impatient and are wondering why the deliberations are taking so long, this is how things often go. In 2005 – after the inauguration of Parliament, their recess and the hammering out of the internal rules and procedures – it took the President the whole constitutionally allowed month to introduce his candidates for the new Cabinet. It then took another four weeks for Parliament to decide on the procedures and to listen to the ministerial presentations. And once the vote had taken place – among confusion over what constitituted a majority vote and whether three of the ministers had been voted in or not – it took another three and a half months to introduce and pass five new candidates for the ministers who had failed to receive the vote of confidence.
Things are expected to move much faster this time, in particular once the names are known, but there has to be time for lobbying and deal-making and dinner invitations – what is otherwise the point of having a vote – and there are always new reasons for delay and more discussion. So let’s see how long the parliamentarians have to wait for their recess to start and how long the nation has to wait for its new (old) government.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020