Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

The disputed election of the Wolesi Jirga’s speaker: A story of a balance of power, political allegiance and money

Ali Yawar Adili Rohullah Sorush 22 min

The Wolesi Jirga – the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament – has, at last, been able to elect its speaker and the rest of its administrative board. This took place more than two months after the house was inaugurated and following several weeks of controversy that followed an extremely close and disputed run-off in the first round of votes to elect a new speaker on 18 May 2019. In the end, one of the two original contenders won the vote: Mir Rahman Rahmani, a wealthy Tajik businessman from Parwan province. Ethnicity was an important factor in the drawn-out electoral process. The fact that Rahmani is a Tajik ensures a degree of balance of power between the ethnicities among the leadership positions in Afghan politics. AAN researchers Ali Yawar Adili and Rohullah Sorush look at the controversy and try to make sense of all the hustle and bustle in the Wolesi Jirga.

The dispute was involving this ballot with a pen mark in favour of Rahmani who considered it to be a valid ballot and claimed that it should be counted. His opponents argued that this was invalid and should be excluded from the ballot count. Photo: Herat MP Nahid Farid Facebook page, 21 May 2019The dispute was involving this ballot with a pen mark in favour of Rahmani who considered it to be a valid ballot and claimed that it should be counted. His opponents argued that this was invalid and should be excluded from the ballot count. Photo: Herat MP Nahid Farid Facebook page, 21 May 2019

Elections have finally been concluded for the Wolesi Jirga’s five-member administrative board (known in Dari as hayat-e edari) following several rounds of balloting, which were plagued by controversies and physical altercations. It took the house 53 days (from 16 May to 7 July 2019) to complete the process.  The elections for the administrative board were the first thing the Wolesi Jirga had to carry out following its inauguration on 26 April 2019 and before buckling down to focus on its three chief duties: legislation, representing the people and overseeing the performance of the executive.

The new members of the board are:

  • Speaker: Mir Rahman Rahmani, an MP from Parwan
  • First deputy: Amir Khan Yar, an MP from Nangrahar
  • Second deputy: Ahmadshah Ramazan, an MP from Balkh
  • Secretary: Muhammad Karim Atal, an MP from Helmand
  • Assistant secretary: Erfanullah Erfan, an MP from Kabul

The election of the speaker alone took the MPs four rounds over the course of 45 days (from 16 May to 29 June 2019). In total, 11 MPs successively competed for the position.

The voting process is explained below. However, the four voting rounds for the speaker (as well as votes for the other administrative board members) were plagued by the massive and intentional use of blank and spoiled votes (for example, as many as 64 spoiled votes were cast in the run-off of the second round and as many as 38 blank votes were used in the third round of the vote for the speaker). This led to a situation in which none of the contenders was able to get past the necessary 50 per cent plus one threshold in order to win the vote.This was a familiar situation: the previous Wolesi Jirga, which came into being in 2010, elected its speaker one month and two days after its inauguration following multiple rounds of voting marred by the same problem (AAN’s reporting here).

The elections for the administrative board had already been pushed back due to the delay in the announcement of the results of the vote in Kabul province, which sends 33 MPs to the Wolesi Jirga. Even at the inauguration of the parliament on 26 April,a total of 38 seats (the 33 for Kabul and five for Paktia) were still empty. The final results for those two provinces were only announced by the IEC on 28 April and 14 May due to a higher rate of complaints about the vote in these two provinces.

Moreover, the election for Ghazni province has yet to take place (see AAN’s previous reporting here). Controversies over whether or not the province should be divided into smaller constituencies in the run-up to the 2018 Wolesi Jirga election led to a postponement of the election in Ghazni (see AAN’s background here and here). The election for Ghazni was planned for 28 September 2019, together with the presidential and provincial council elections, but has again been put off indefinitely (see AAN’s previous reporting here). According to article 104 of the electoral law, until the Ghazni elections have been held, the province’s MPs elected in 2010 will retain their seats.

On top of all of this, the parliament was itself elected much too late. The elections should have been held 30 to 60 days before 22 June 2015 when the previous parliament’s term came to an end; they only took place in October 2018 after failed attempts at election reforms and a number of grave technical problems (see AAN’s reporting in a dossiers here and here).

The legal framework for the Wolesi Jirga’s internal elections

As in parliaments in many other countries,the oldest member of the house who is not a candidate for the position of speaker presides over the first session of the Jirga as interim speaker and supervises the election of the regular speaker. He is assisted by the two youngest members who are not running for a post on the administrative board as interim deputy and secretary. (1)

According to the Wolesi Jirga’s procedural rules, the election of the speaker is secret and direct and a majority of the MPs needs to be present. If none of the candidates receives a majority of the votes of MPs present in the first round, a runoff must be held between the two candidates who receive the highest numbers of votes in the first round, with the candidate who receives the majority of votes in the runoff declared the winner. If the runoff still fails to produce a majority winner, a new vote should be held and those who were candidates in the first vote cannot run again. This process can be repeated three times.

If none of the candidates wins the votes of the majority of the MPs present in three rounds of votes (and three rounds of runoff), the vote should be held between two candidates who received the highest percentage of votes in the different rounds of votes.  The candidate who receives the votes of the majority of MPs present should be declared the speaker. If neither of them wins a majority, the one who receives the highest vote should be put to an open vote for approval or rejection. (2)

The same procedure applies for the other four members of the administrative board members.

The four rounds of voting

1. The first vote

When the Wolesi Jirga, 21 days after its inauguration, on 16 May, conducted its first round of voting for the speaker, it was inconclusive. There were four candidates: Mir Rahman Rahmani (Parwan) a wealthy Tajik businessman from Parwan provincewho was the head of the economy commission in the previous parliament (75 votes); Kamal Naser Osuli from Khost province who was previously the head of the education/higher education commission (69 votes); Mirwais Yasini from Nangrahar (59 votes) and Omar Nasir Mujaddedi from Herat (seven votes).

The runoff between Rahmani and Osuli was held two days later, on 18 May. There were 247 MPs presentand 124 votes were needed to win, as per the announcement by the interim speaker before the voting commenced (media reports here and here). Rahmani came out on top with 123 votes, missing the absolute majority just by one. Osuli was far behind with 55 votes and more than one quarter of MPs cast invalid (53) or blank votes (13). This brought the total of votes cast to 244 and meant that either three votes were ‘missing’ or three MPs had abstained from voting. This prompted a hot dispute from the floor, as Rahmani’s supporters said that he had sufficient votes to be elected speaker.  They argued that the 50 per cent plus one majority should be drawn from the ballots placed inside the ballot box.

Nahid Farid, an MP from Herat, for example, argued on her Facebook page that a majority of the votes cast would be sufficient, so Rahmani was elected speaker. To support her opinion, she cited article 71 of the rules of procedures, arguing that the basis should be the number of votes inside the ballot box. She argued that from a legal perspective if someone did not place their vote in the ballot box, they were not considered present. Article 71 of the procedural rules set out that, “Because, according to the provisions of the constitution, approval of a subject/issue requires a majority of the present, the present majority shall be established/determined by the ballots used.”

Nahid also referred to another element of the controversy. One ballot that was cast was counted as invalid because of a single dot of a pen on it. Rahmani claimed that the tiny pen mark on this was irrelevant; he considered the ballot as valid, which, therefore, should be counted. Nahid added that the law was not clear about the criteria for spoiling (invalidating) a ballot.

The Wolesi Jirga’s live television broadcast was cut for an hour. The interim speaker then announced that based on the review by the technical committee, Rahmani had obtained the requisite number of votes and thus declared him the winner (media report here). Osuli’s supporters protested by raising red cards and chaos broke out in the house after Rahmani, flanked by his supporters, sat in the speaker’s seat while Osuli’s supporters stormed the platform. They argued that because 247 people had signed the attendance sheet, those signatures should be the basis for the quorum and the fact that three people had not cast their vote for unknown reasons was not a reason to remove them from the vote count. Therefore, 124 votes were required to win. They also argued that the ballot with the dot was invalid.

Osuli himself told the media later that day the interim speaker had announced the number of MPs present as 247 and the winner needed to get 124 votes. He accused the interim speaker of going out to the corridor of the parliament and receiving one million dollars [from Rahmani] to declare him winner upon his return. On 21 May, Maryam Sama, an MP from Kabul, also claimed in an article for the Hasht-e Sobh daily that the interim speaker had only announced the number of votes cast for each candidate without declaring a winner because a number of members (mainly Osuli’s supporters) had rejected the result. She wrote that Rahmani, Osuli and the interim speaker held a meeting for about an hour behind closed doors after the controversy broke out, and only then did the interim speaker announce Rahmani as the winner. The interim speaker then left the house, which was not in accordance with procedure.

Later that day the media, including the Wolesi Jirga’s own website, reported that Rahmani had been elected as speaker of the Wolesi Jirga. (3) The following day, on 19 May, while the media did not have direct access to the plenary session, it was reported that first a verbal and then a physical altercation had taken place between the MPs after Osuli had sat on one chair and Rahmani on another on the speaker’s platform. Speaking to the media, Ramazan Bashardost, an MP from Kabul known for his independence and outspokenness (he was also one of the three MPs who did not cast a vote), described the situation in his own style, comparing Osuli and Rahmani to “two hungry wolves who see their bait and wait for a chance to have it sitting near the speaker’s seat.”  A committee of 15 lawmakers was established to try to resolve the issue. It was made up of fifteen members – five supporting Rahmani and Osuli respectively, and five impartial MPs. It is not clear what impartiality means here as they may also have voted for either of them. (4)

The following day, 20 May, was filled with just as much controversy. MPs received a text message from the Wolesi Jirga’s secretariat (the dar ul-ensha, which consists of support staff in charge of all the Wolesi Jirga’s administrative, financial, logistical and security affairs (see here), saying that on that day parliament would not sit “at the behest of Mr Rahmani.” Rahmani’s supporters said the secretariat locked the door of the hall in order to prevent a repetition of the previous day’s incidents. However, some MPs refusing to recognise Rahmani as speaker tried to enter the floor of the house, where guards of the parliament tried to prevent them. Five guards were reportedly wounded after they were beaten by the bodyguards of one MP (media report here). Later on that day, they Jirga formed a new committee comprising 27 members to:

  • Review the archive footage of the runoff voting which took place on 18 May
  • Discuss and review the invalidated ballot cast in favour of Rahmani
  • Discuss and probe the Wolesi Jirga’s procedural rules regarding the election of the speaker.

On 22 May, the committee came up with the following findings after reviewing the archive footage, considering the rules of the procedures and reviewing the invalidated votes:

  1. It was found that 246 members were present and all had cast their votes.
  2. The results were revised as follows:

Mr Rahmani’s certified votes were 124, now including the one previously invalidated vote because of the pen spot

Mr Osuli’s approved votes totalled 55

Invalidated votes 54 (earlier the speaker had announced 53 invalid votes)

Blank votes 13

In total, 246 of the votes cast were approved.

  1. The invalidated vote cast for Rahmani was reviewed and considered valid, after consideration of the existing and previous examples of invalid votes.
  2. The total number of valid votes for Rahmani was 124 and, as a result, he had the majority votes of the members present and was declared speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (5)

From this point onwards, the dispute boils down to being about the ballot with the pen mark, over which the commission was divided. Only 16 out of 27 members voted for its revalidation with 11 against doing so. As a result, it was decided that the plenary session would vote on it the following day. Mehdi Rasekh, an MP from Maidan Wardak, told the media that Rahmani and his supporters agreed to a vote for the sake of the public interest, and also that Osuli and his supporters (who believed that in principle a new election should be held) had agreed in order for the dispute to be resolved. However, the two sides disagreed over the method of voting: Rahmani and his supporters demanded that the controversial ballot be voted on publicly, whereas Osuli and his supporters called for a secret vote.

On 23 May, Abdul Qayum Sajjadi, an MP from Ghazni and considered to be neutral, was appointed to chair the session. However, a number of MPs disrupted the session and there was no vote. The two sides then spent a number of days disagreeing about how to put the disputed ballot to a vote.

On 27 May, the Wolesi Jirga appointed a new interim administrative board in order to manage the session and bring an end to the dispute.  (6)

However, on 28 May following a secret session, a number of Wolesi Jirga members told the media that the house had decided to break for the Eid holidays several days early without resolving the problem of the election of the speaker. Some blamed the early holidays (Eid fell on 4 June this year), including Yasini, who said that “the official time of the Shura has been specified by the constitution, no one, not me and not anyone else, has the authority make the session end. Tomorrow the members will come, I want the MPs not to kill time and not further waste time.”

By 8 June when most government offices had reopened, the Wolesi Jirga was unable to reconvene due to the continued absence of more than 200 MPs who were still on Eid holidays after 11 days. (7) From 9 June, MPs continued to attend sessions but still, no decision had been taken. On 18 June, MPs decided to put the ballot to the vote, although once again were unable to agree on whether the vote would be public or secret. Rasekh told the media that they finally agreed to first vote on the method of voting about the ballot and that they conducted this vote twice. It was decided by a majority that a public vote should be held about the disputed ballot the following day. They also agreed that if the validity of the ballot was approved in a public vote, Rahmani would be allowed to assume the position of speaker, otherwise a new election among fresh candidates would be held.

However, the following day on 19 June, MPs were again divided (media report here) as to whether the vote about the controversial ballot should be public or secret. Some MPs also called for a review of the archive footage of the 18 May vote. At that moment, the live television broadcast of the Wolesi Jirga was cut off again. Later on, a video showing the physical altercations between the MPs appeared on social media. The clash reportedly started after the MPs supporting Rahmani escorted him to the speaker’s seat, which was physically blocked by the MPs backing Osuli. Some MPs were reportedly injured and some seats were broken.

Meanwhile, on 22 June, Radio Azadi reported it had obtained a petition signed by 102 MPs calling for a new election. Maryam Sama, who also posted a photo of herself holding the petition with the 102 signatures in favour of new elections, told Radio Azadi that public or secret voting about the disputed ballot was illegal and that based on the rules of procedure, new elections had to be held with new candidates. Also, since 22 June, security forces had established check points along the routes leading to the parliament building, preventing MPs from having more than four guards with them. Radio Azadi reported that it had seen security forces preventing armed guards from entering the building and quoted Habib Rahman Wardak as saying that this was at the request of some of the MPs.

Meanwhile, public criticism of the chaos in parliament was mounting. For instance, on 22 June, the media reported activists in Herat criticising MPs for turning “the house of the nation and legislation” into “a sports club.”

At long last, on 24 June, the Wolesi Jirga put the controversial ballot to a secret vote (see here and here). There were 229 MPs present, so 115 were needed for a majority decision to support or reject a win for Rahmani. Only 90 MPs voted for the validation of the ballot whereas 120 others voted for its invalidation and the rest of the votes were either invalid (16 votes) or blank (three votes). This left Rahmani unelected, and a second vote with fresh candidates had to be held. Meanwhile, the Wolesi Jirga elected Malek Qais Nur Aqa Malekzai, an MP from Nangrahar, as the new interim speaker to supervise the second vote.

2. The second vote

The Wolesi Jirga conducted a second vote to elect a speaker on 25 June. There were three new candidates: Ahmad Jawid Jaihun and Mir Afghan Safi (both from Kabul) and Abdul Shakur Waqef Hakimi, an MP from Badakhshan. Out of a total of 237 votes cast, 119 were required to win, but none of the candidates came close: with 77 votes for Safi, 73 for Jaihun, 35 for Hakimi, 42 invalid and ten blank votes.

As a result, Jaihun and Safi went to a runoff which resulted in 88 votes for Safi, 76 votes for Jaihun and as many as 64 invalids and eight blank votes, therefore neither candidate secured a majority. (Media reports here and here ) All four dropped out of the race again.

3. The third vote

The house conducted a third election on 26 June with four new candidates. Out of 237 MPs present in the first round, 119 votes were needed to win, but again no one made it. Khan Muhammad Wardakand Khan Aqa Rezayi, both from Kabul, received 80 and 77 votes respectively; Sediq Ahmad Osmani from Parwan got 40 votes and Abdul Satar Hussaini from Farah received 14 votes.There were four blank and 22 invalid votes.

The runoff between Rezayi and Wardak, with 231 MPs present, ended inconclusively once again, with 84 votes for Rezayi and 105 votes for Wardak, with 38 blank votes and four invalid votes. (Six MPs did not stay for the second round).

4. The fourth and final vote

Thus, according to the Wolesi Jirga’s procedures, on 29 June the fourth vote was conducted between the two candidates who had received the highest number of votes in the three previous rounds of balloting. These were Rahmani and Wardak, who had received 123 votes in the first vote and 105 votes in the third vote respectively. For the fourth poll, 245 MPs were present and 123 votes were required to win a 50  per cent plus one vote majority. Rahmani finally made it with 136 votes, despite 11 invalid and two blank votes. Wardak received 96 votes (media reports here and here).

President Ashraf Ghani congratulated Rahmani on his election, thanking the MPs for “actively participating in the election of the new speaker, and exhibiting the principle of democracy.”

Chief Executive Abdullah also congratulated  Rahmani and praised Wardak for his “sound competition” and “commendable action of accepting the results.”

The vote for other administrative board members

On 30 June, the Wolesi Jirga held elections for the first and second deputy speakers, secretary and deputy secretary. There were 234 MPs present and 118 votes were required to win but none of the candidates won a sufficient number of votes. (see here)

  • Kamal Safi (37 votes) from Kunduz, Alam Sa’i (93 votes) from Takhar, and Najibullah Naser (72 votes) from Kabul, had nominated themselves for the position of first deputy speaker. There were 19 blank and 13 spoiled votes. A runoff would be held between Sa’i and Naser.
  • Ruqia Nail (113 votes) from Ghor, and Abdul Rahman Wardak (86 votes) from Maidan Wardak competed for the position of second deputy speaker. There were 21 spoiled and 14 blank votes. Another election with new candidates would be held.
  • Halima Sadaf Karimi (25 votes) from Jawzjan, Sayyed Azim Kebarzani (64 votes) from Herat, Asadullah Shahbaz (78 votes) from Baghlan and Abdalullah Muhammadi (40 votes) from Samangan competed for the position of secretary. There were 14 spoiled and 13 blank votes. A runoff would be held between Kebarzani and Shahbaz.
  • Erfanullah Erfan (98 votes) from Kabul, Farida Hamidi (63 votes) from Nimruz, and Lailuma Wali Hakimi (33 votes) from Nangrahar ran for the position of deputy secretary. There were 12 invalid and 28 blank votes. A runoff would be held between Erfan and Hamidi.

Runoff (second vote for the second deputy) on 1 July 2019 (see here).

  • There were 236 MPs present and 119 votes were needed to win. The runoff was held between Sa’i and Naser. The results were: 109 votes for Naser, 86 votes for Sa’i, 23 invalid votes and 18 blank votes.
  • The second round of voting for the position of the second deputy was held between Ghulam Hussain Naseri (89 votes) from Kabul and Humayun Shahidzada (113 votes) from Farah. There were 12 blank votes and 13 invalid votes.
  • The runoff for the secretary resulted in 106 votes for Kebarzani and 91 votes for Shahbaz, with 21 invalid votes and 18 blank votes.
  • The runoff for the position of deputy secretary resulted in 80 votes for Hamidi and 103 votes for Erfan, 34 blank votes and 19 invalid votes.

The second vote (third vote for the second deputy) on 2 July 2019:  236 MPs were present and 119 votes were needed to win (see here).

  • Amir Khan Yar, an MP from Nangrahar, and Muhammadullah Batash from Kunduz competed for the position of first deputy speaker. Yar received 131 votes and was elected as the first deputy. Batash received 50 votes; 46 votes were spoiled and nine votes were blank.
  • Ahmadshah Ramazan from Balkh and Sayyed Ahmad Silab from Kandahar competed for the position of second deputy speaker. Ramazan received 119 votes and was elected as the second deputy speaker. Silab received 64 votes.
  • Khadija Elham from Kapisa, Abdul Qader Qalatwal from Zabul and Sayyed Taha Sadeq from Herat competed for the position of secretary: 52 votes for Elham, 77 votes for Qalatwal and 76 for Sadeq. There were 14 blank votes and 17 invalid ones. A runoff between Qalatwal and Sadeq was to be held the following day.
  • Zakia Sangin (36 votes) from Parwan, Nazifa Zaki (46 votes) from Kabul, Abdul Basir Osmani (45 votes) from Badghis and Neamatullah Karyab (70 votes) from Kunar competed for the position of deputy secretary. There were 20 invalid and 19 blank votes. A runoff was to be held between Zaki and Karyab.

The Wolesi Jirga conducted the third round of votes for the positions of secretary and assistant secretary on 6 July: 218 MPs were present and 110 votes were needed to win (see here).

  • Secretary: Mirdad Khan Nejrabi (45 votes) from Kapisa, Abdul Rauf Enami (46 votes) from Badakhshan, Zuhra Nawruzi (10 votes) from Kabul, Muhammad Karim Atal (62 votes) from Helmand, and Azizullah Ulfati (41 votes) from Jawzjan competed for the post. There were 11 invalid and 3 blank votes.
  • Assistant secretary: Jawid Sapai (79 votes) from Kunar, Abdul Nasir Farahi (37 votes) from Farah and Nilofar Jalali Kufi (69 votes) from Kunduz ran for the position. Sixteen spoiled votes and 17 blank ones were cast.

A runoff was held on 7 July. There were 213 MPs present and 107 votes were needed to win.

  • Secretary: Enami received 89 votes and Atal received 98 votes. There were six blank and 20 invalid votes.
  • Assistant secretary: Kufi received 84 votes and Sapai received 92 votes. There were 15 blank and 22 invalid votes.

The fourth round: 190 MPs were present and 93 votes were needed to win.

  • The first round of the fourth vote for the secretary resulted in 95 votes for Atal and 70 votes for Shahbaz.
  • Similarly, the first round of the fourth vote for the deputy secretary resulted in 93 votes for Erfan and 80 votes for Sapai.

Public vote:

Based on the procedural rules, Atal and Erfan who had obtained the highest number of votes were put to the public vote respectively for the positions of secretary and deputy secretary; both were approved (see the Wolesi Jirga report here)

Conclusion: making sense of all the hustle and bustle in the Wolesi Jirga

Three major factors seem to have been at play during the elections:

Firstly, an ethnic balance of power. The voting for the position of the speaker was influenced by a sense that the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) should be led by people from different ethnic backgrounds, so as to avoid a concentration of power by one ethnic group. Although not a formal principle, this point is often more or less explicitly raised in political debates. For example, an MP from Ghazni, Muhammad Ali Akhlaqi, highlighted in a television discussion on 19 May, that one reason for the dispute was the argument that “in order for Afghanistan to have a balance [of power], people from different strata and ethnic groups should be at the helm of the pyramid of power.” He said that since the president, the chief justice as well as many other heads of government institution were from the “same ethnic group [Pashtun],” therefore, “some say that in order to have a balance [of power], the speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, which is the legislature should be someone with whom this balance is preserved.” Yunus Qanuni, a Tajik from Panjshir, was the speaker of the first post-Taleban Wolesi Jirga from 2005 to 2010. The second Wolesi Jirga (2010 to 2019) was led by Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, an Uzbek. The post has now returned to the Tajiks.

Secondly, voting was influenced by political leaders’ support for one or another candidate and especially the candidate’s relation to the executive. The question of political support overlaps to some extent with the question of ethnicity. Several of the people the authors spoke to claimed that Osuli was being supported by the presidential palace. For instance, Akhlaqi claimed that in some instances government institutions had called MPs and asked them to “vote for Mr Osuli. Osuli is our candidate.” Another MP even went as far as to say that President Ghani had been advised that his support for Osuli would reflect on his reputation as he himself seeks re-election. Other leaders such as Chief Executive Abdullah and former Balkh governor and chief executive of Jamiat-e Islami, Atta Muhammad Nur, had thrown his support behind Rahmani. During the Council of Ministers’ weekly meeting on 27 May, Abdullah warned that “if law, regulations and the right of the people are replaced with bullying [in the election of the Wolesi Jirga speaker], in that case, we should not expect a positive result for the country.” Nur, in his video message about the end of the presidential term on 22 May said that it was a “grudge-driven move” to reject Rahmani’s election. He alleged that the government (presidential palace) was behind it, vowing to support the votes cast for Rahmani and himself as the speaker of the Wolesi Jirga as well as those who voted for him.

Thirdly, the fact that votes can be bought. The ad interim speaker told MPs, “stop deal making inside the house and during the vote. Gosh, you are making deals in broad daylight.” He also asked MPs to stop taking photographs of their ballots before placing them in the ballot box. It is thought that the MPs took photos to show them to the candidates to prove they voted for them in return for money. Osuli himself also said in a show called ‘Cactus’ broadcast on 20 June that corruption peaked during the Wolesi Jirga speaker election and that money had been distributed. He even alleged that he had “caught” an MP in “the toilet” where he was receiving 10,000 dollars in return for his vote.

Out of the 239 MPs in the 2019 parliamentary elections, almost two-thirds – 155 – are new faces. Just over a tenth (25) out of the 239 newly-elected MPs had registered their affiliation with a political party on the ballot paper. Some of the remaining 214 officially-independent MPs may, of course, be affiliated with one party or another. In the absence of political parties as to the organising principle, it is not surprising that other factors such as ethnicity, political affiliation with government leaders and bribes become more prevalent within the context of the parliament. As a result, the parliament’s work is already being delayed, or, as noted by Wahid Paiman of Hasht-e Sobh on 1 July, the drawn-out election of the administrative board has delayed the introduction of the acting ministers to the Wolesi Jirga for confirmation, and raised doubts about the effectiveness of the 17thparliament.


Edited by Sari Kouvo and Thomas Ruttig.


(1) Article 87 of the constitution envisages the following internal elections at the start of the Wolesi Jirga’s (as well as the Meshrano Jirga) legislative term:

  • The speaker for the entire term
  • First and second deputies, secretary and assistant secretary for a period of one year (there are new elections for these posts following the annual inauguration of the house).

According to the constitution, these individuals form the Wolesi Jirga’s administrative team. Article four of the Wolesi Jirga’s procedural rules set out that in the Jirga’s first session, the oldest member who is not a candidate for the position of the speaker should be appointed as pro tem (interim) speaker. It also stipulates that the two youngest members of the Jirga who are not candidates themselves, be appointed as deputy and secretary to the pro tem speaker.

If there are two or more members of exactly the same age, the pro tem speaker, deputy and secretary should be appointed by lottery.

The pro tem speaker chairs the election of the speaker based on secret and direct vote and by a majority of MPs present. If none of the candidates receives a majority of the votes of MPs present in the first round, runoff should be held between the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes in the first round, with the candidate who receives the majority of votes in the runoff declared the winner.

If the runoff still fails to produce a majority winner, a new vote should be held and those who were candidates in the first election cannot nominate themselves again. This process can be repeated three times. If none of the candidates wins the votes of the majority of the MPs present in three rounds of votes (and three rounds of runoffs), the vote should be held between the two candidates who receive the highest percentage of votes in the different rounds of votes with the member who receives the votes of the majority of the MPs present being declared speaker. If neither wins a majority, the one who receives the highest number of votes should be put to an open vote for approval or rejection. The procedure doesn’t mention anything about a rejection scenario. However, Sayyed Muhammad Jamal Fakuri Beheshti, an MP from Bamyan, told AAN on 16 July that the precedent has been to approve, and not to reject. But if he/she is rejected, a new cycle of elections begins. The same applies to the rest of the administrative board members (ie first and second deputy speakers, secretary and deputy secretary).

(2) The public vote is conducted in the following manner: The secretary instructs members to be seated in their own seats, counts and announces the members present. Voting begins thereafter. If the votes are equal, the speaker’s vote should determine the result. The results of the vote are recorded and then published in the Wolesi Jirga’s official publication.

(3) The Wolesi Jirga reported on 18 May that the first two MPs who had not been able to participate in the swearing-in ceremony were sworn in by the pro tem speaker. Then, according to the agenda, the voting started as a result of which Mir Rahman was elected as the speaker with 123 votes.

(4) Rahmani’s supporters were:

  • Khan Aqa Rezai
  • Haji Ajmal Rahmani
  •  Nahid Farid
  •  Mirdad Nejrabi
  • Humayoun Harirod

Osuli’s supporters were:

  • Khan Muhammad Wardak
  •  Jawid Safi
  •  Sayed Ahmad Khadim
  •  Razia Mangal
  •  Abdul Rashid Azizi

The five impartial MPs were:

  • Sayed Abdul Qayum Sajjadi
  •  Erfanullah Erfan
  •  Feraidon Momand
  •  Seddiq Ahmad Osmani
  • Muhammadullah Batash (media report here).

Salamwatandar reported that first a committee consisting of 10 lawmakers was formed to solve the dispute. However, it seems that it only counted the supporters from both sides but not the impartial MPs. Ghulam Hussain Naseri, an MP from Kabul, said that the supporters from both sides expelled the impartial MPs, as one of them was Abdul Qayyum Sajjadi who came out and thanked the MPs for their trust; both sides told them to leave the meeting.

(5) The decision by the Commission for Resolving the Wolesi Jirga’s speaker election problem dated 1/3/1398 (22 May 2019)

Based on the 30/2/1398 (20 May 2019) decision of the plenary session of the Wolesi Jirga, it was agreed that 17 impartial MPs in addition to ten MPs approved by the two candidates (five each) totaling 27 MPs whose names are available in the list attached review the problem of the Wolesi Jirga’s speaker elections and decide.

According to the decision of the plenary session, the commission held its meeting at 9 am on Tuesday 31/2/1398 (21 May 2019), which was attended by all the members and based on the decision of the plenary session. It started its work on three issues:

  1. Review of the archive of the voting process from the Saturday 28/2/1398 (18 May 2019) to investigate the voting process
  2. Discuss and review the invalidated vote of Mr Mir Rahman Rahmani
  3. Discuss and probe the Wolesi Jirga’s rules of the procedures regarding the election of the speaker

After these reviews as well as a comprehensive discussion (based on the outcome of reviewing the archive footage and considering the rules of the procedures and reviewing the invalidated vote), the following results were presented to the representatives of the people of Afghanistan and members of the Wolesi Jirga:

  1. No result emerged after reviewing the voting process in the Wolesi Jirga’s archives and all the individuals had used their votes according to the list of the present voters and it became clear that all the signatories had used their votes after receiving their ballots.
  2. The following results emerged from the recount of the ballots and the archive:

Mr Rahmani’s totalled 124 certified votes, including one which was invalidated

Mr Osuli’s had 55 approved votes

There were 54 invalidated votes

There were 13 blank votes

In total, 246 of the votes cast were approved.

  1. Mr Rahmani’s invalidated vote was revalidated and considered valid considering the existing examples of the invalid votes and considering the previous usual precedents.
  2. As a result of counting Mr Rahmani’s invalidated vote, his total valid votes totalled 124 votes and as a result, according to the rules of the procedures, Mr Rahmani obtained the majority of the votes from the members present and was declared as speaker of the Wolesi Jirga

The 27 members were: Khan Aqa Rezai (from Kabul), Haji Ajmal Rahmani (Kabul), Mirdad Khan Nijrabi (Kapisa), Nahid Ahmadi Farid (Herat), Abdul Aziz Humayun Harirod (Parwan), Haji Khan Muhammad Wardak (Kabul), Jawid Safi (Kunar), Razia Sadat Mangal (Paktia), Abdul Rashid Azizi (Helmand), Abdul Qayum Sajjadi (Ghazni), Hazrat Ali (Nangrahar), Abdul Wali Niazi (Badakhshan), Ghulam Hussain Naseri (Kabul), Anwar Khan Orya Khil (Kabul), Amanullah Gozar (Kabul), Hamiduddin Yoldash (Takhar), Shahpur Popal (Herat), Sayed Ahmad Khadim (Kandahar), Shahgul Rezai (Ghazni), Rayis Abdul Khaliq (Balkh), Rahila Saleem (Panjshir), Maryam Suleimankhil (Kuchi), Nadir Khan Katawazi (Paktika), Allahgul Mujahed (Kabul), Sanjar Kargar (Faryab), Naeem Khan Wardak (Kabul).

(6) The members of the interim administrative board were Eqbal Safi, Mir Dad Khan Nijrabi, Muhammad Reza Khoshak Watandost, Khan Muhammad Wardak and Habib Afghan.

The interim administrative board gave both sides a chance to express their views. Mir Rahman Rahmani said he did not want anything but the solidarity of the Afghans. He also apologised for the problems created in the Lower House. Kamal Naser Osuli said, “The tension over electing the speaker of the house is due to the difference in the opinion of MPs on a legal issue. It is not related to my candidacy for the speaker’s post.”

(7) On 15 June, 70 MPs from Kabul, Baghlan, Paktia, Maidan Wardak and Kunduz as well as Kuchi representatives received their election certificates. Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a deputy spokesman for the IEC, told Hasht-e Sobh that with the distribution of election credentials to these 70 MPs, all who had won the 2018 parliamentary elections had received their credentials. The reason for the delay in issuing these MPs’ credentials was reportedly due to disputes about the results in their constituency. Media report here.







election Rahman Rahmani speaker Wolesi Jirga


Ali Yawar Adili

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Rohullah Sorush

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