Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

The President’s Verdict: No Parliament till mid-February

Fabrizio Foschini Gran Hewad Thomas Ruttig 13 min

On a remarkably busy winter day, the dreams of many former participant in the past September elections to take up her/his job in Parliament soon were shattered by the President’s ruling to delay the house’s inauguration for another month. Meanwhile, the opposite hopes of a multitude of ‘disappointed candidates’ – i.e. the losers of 18 September – were rekindled at a blazing press conference held by the Special (Elections) Court. AAN’s researchers Fabrizio Foschini, Gran Hewad and Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig start to read through this new chapter of what has become an epos of now almost ‘permanent elections’.

During the last three days, a majority of the 249 members of the parliament’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, declared winners by the still-standing final result announced on 24 November by the IEC attended an Orientation Week Workshop for their expected future work in Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel. The atmosphere there was full of excitement and confidence, with the newly elected representatives eager to meet each other and journalists alike. They were considering the event as a sort of official first step towards taking up their duty, with only a few days remaining before the scheduled inauguration of the National Assembly next Sunday.

A handful prominent figures amongst them – Hafiz Mansur, Doctor Mehdi, Haji Zaher (the son of the late Haji Qadir), Abdul Latif Pedram and Baktash Siawosh, a popular TV presenter – were already busy campaigning for the position of Speaker of the house(*). His (or her) election would be one of the first developments to take place in parliament once it starts its work and would provide a first indication which MPs would rather be pro-President and which pro-opposition, as well as how united the pro-President camp and the Pashtuns – often equated with each other – would be.

However, it now appears that all of this had been an optimistic haste. Some key issues that were shaping the political debate in the last weeks, were conspicuously absent at the workshop and had been brushed under the carpets of the hotel’s halls.

Firstly, the President. Although, he had announced privately – and his office in public – the date for the inauguration of Parliament (initially 21 January, which was then adjusted to the 23th to fit with his travel plans to Russia), the President’s attitude toward the new house had remained ambiguous. He had not stopped his initial expressions of dissatisfaction about the electoral results. Moreover, he failed to appoint in time the one-third of Senate (Meshrano Jirga, MJ) members whose tenure had expired on 19 December but which, according to the Constitution, are needed – the Parliament can only be inaugurated with both complete houses. (Also, his travel planning without taking the all-important event in Parliament into consideration can be taken as a lack of regard for procedure.) Still, no serious steps appear to have been taken by the presidential office in that direction so far (the only existing list with potential names is reported to include roughly 2000 candidates for 34 seats).

And then, of course, the Special Court set up in December by presidential decree to investigate the indeed intransparent electoral results had not finished its job. On the contrary, its chairman had been quite vocal in the last days, stating that the body was to contact the President to impress on him the necessity of avoiding a premature inauguration of the Parliament. Prior to this, the authority of this court had been defended by the Supreme Court – it also had nominated its members, five judges, with presidential approval – on more than one occasion. Legal questioning of its legitimacy did not lack either, but it came mainly from unofficial quarters, including, naturally, many of the winning candidates at the Interconti. Some 200 of them declared the Special Court’s demand for a delay ‘illegal’ and ‘not binding’, decided to proceed with the inauguration on Sunday and asked the President to send a deputy if he was absent himself. The group was led by outgoing speaker Yunos Qanuni (the leader of the opposition in parliament who, although, never closed the doors toward Karzai), Mohaqqeq (who fluctuated even more between both camps) and, surprisingly, the ambitious Mir Wais Yasini, a Pashtun from Nangrahar who is usually counted amongst the President’s supporters (but is reportedly disliked by him, most probably because he dared to run against him in the 2009 presidential election).

The other judicial body entitled to have a say in the matter, the Commission for the Monitoring and Overview of the Constitution, made some scathing comments to the same effect last week, calling the Special Court ‘illegal’, but has so far refrained from making comments in public.

In fact, at around the same time as the would-be sitting MPs went to the conclusive day of their workshop, a different group of MPs – the failed ones – gathered at the Kabul Court of Appeal for the press conference by the Special Court.

There, the court’s chairman Sediqullah Haqiq proceeded to relate in detail the work done by the court since its establishment: about the 430 cases received and divided into four categories (30 with priority status). The most common types of irregularities to be investigated: the loss of whole ballot boxes, the failure to implement rules on quarantining boxes with suspect numbers of votes and other unclear decisions made by electoral officers during or after the vote. Haqiq further informed that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), when asked to forward to the court data about the partial and final results, including a breakdown for polling stations, had replied with an un-signed letter, sent via the Attorney General office, suggesting the judges could check their website for what they needed – if true, a striking (and most probably intentional) lack of respect. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) when queried by the court about procedures and details of the complaints received, did not bother to answer.

After having announced the intention to recount votes at the provincial or district level if required, Haqiq called for the cooperation of the electoral commissions and other national and international bodies, including UNAMA. (During th whole electoral process, however, the UN has taken the position that it would not play any role, so it is highly unlikely Haqiq will get a positive answer on that one.) He also estimated that the a one-month’s timeline for those investigation was sufficient, and asked to postpone the Parliament’s inauguration until then – but only if investigation were supported by cooperative electoral bodies. (Initially, the court had demanded a deadline of at least one month.) Finally, Haqiq said that if the investigation showed massive fraud, the ‘Afghan nation’ would have to decide on the validity of the elections as a whole.

That, of course, was a bomb-shell.

And it was the signal most ‘disappointed candidates’ were waiting for. When Haqiq mentioned the one-month delay, the hall, crowded with a couple of hundred people, exploded in frantic applause and shouts of ‘Allahu akbar’. After that, many of these candidates displayed a remarkable ability to restrain themselves and calmed down colleagues who wanted to ask questions. If nothing else, they all looked much less disappointed than before.

The Palace also did not sit idle. The head of the IEC, Fazl Ahmad Manawi, was summoned on that same, eventful morning. The main object of the convocation seems to have been to make him accept some sort of compromise – on recounts of votes or changes in the winning candidates’ list – and, at least, to make him meet the head of the Supreme Court, something that happened in the afternoon. It was after this last meeting which went well into the early evening that the presidential office came out announcing publicly the postponement of the Parliament’s inauguration for a full month, while promising solemnly that further delays would not happen.

Manawi, in turn, seemed not to have accepted whatever compromise he may have been proposed, and it is not difficult to guess why. The IEC never quite recovered from the attacks it had suffered late last year from the Attorney General office, and resents any further external interference in its operations. It has, further, never recognized the appointed Special Court. So Manawi released a statement in answer to the presidential decision, denying the court’s legitimacy to change the final results certified by the IEC and wondering how such a body can think of fixing election irregularities better than the responsible commission (with its much larger staff of 80,000) and in a much shorter time.

So, even if the core of the matter would have boiled down to just a couple of replacements in the winners’ lists to accommodate the most dangerous and noisy ‘disappointed’ candidates – and to avoid violence – a solution seems not to be ready at hand. Other candidates, those who had already received their certificates of election months ago and who were at the Interconti workshop yesterday, would probably be even more ready to refuse such a scenario. One can only hope that they will have enough common sense – and common interests – to avoid the treacherous but always present fault line that threatens to pit Pashtuns against non-Pashtuns, and vice-versa.

 

The presidential camp might find the continuing political impasse favourable to their interests and be happy that it blocks the Parliament for a while. This would give the President time to carefully select new senators and strengthen their role in the absence of a Lower House. (There are even rumours that some Jihadi leaders have advocated for holding new elections in a few years time and work without a Wolesi Jirga in the meantime, giving much more power to the Senate.) This state of things could be drawn out for quite a while; given the kind of elections we had, the Special Court will have no difficulty to detect some ‘massive fraud’ and to blow the elections up for good, much to the detriment of the ‘international community’ which did its best to let the election result appear legitimate.

Then, as Haqiq has suggested, it might be up to the ‘Afghan nation’ to pick up the pieces and decide the best course. One wonders what ‘nation’ means in this context: another election in a more and more devastated human landscape, another (Loya) Jirga hand-picked by the government, or a backroom decision by the President’s kitchen-cabinet (i.e. the ‘Jehadi leaders’ left in the system, the vice-presidents and the key presidential advisors)? And who would dare take charge of another Afghan election in the near future? The kitchen cabinet, as could be expected, has already been called in by the President a couple of time over the last few days.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Parliament is being pushed to new limits of humiliation and de-legitimization. At the start of its second legislative period – and in the first year of the Western ‘drawdown’ – looms another institutional deadlock which makes intentions to ‘hand over responsibilities’ not yet look like a good idea.

(*) Other candidates to the position are the Speaker of the 2005-10 WJ Yunos Qanuni and incumbent MPs Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Mir Wais Yassini.

On a remarkably busy winter day, the dreams of many former participant in the past September elections to take up her/his job in Parliament soon were shattered by the President’s ruling to delay the house’s inauguration for another month. Meanwhile, the opposite hopes of a multitude of ‘disappointed candidates’ – i.e. the losers of 18 September – were rekindled at a blazing press conference held by the Special (Elections) Court. AAN’s researchers Fabrizio Foschini, Gran Hewad and Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig start to read through this new chapter of what has become an epos of now almost ‘permanent elections’.

During the last three days, a majority of the 249 members of the parliament’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, declared winners by the still-standing final result announced on 24 November by the IEC attended an Orientation Week Workshop for their expected future work in Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel. The atmosphere there was full of excitement and confidence, with the newly elected representatives eager to meet each other and journalists alike. They were considering the event as a sort of official first step towards taking up their duty, with only a few days remaining before the scheduled inauguration of the National Assembly next Sunday.

A handful prominent figures amongst them – Hafiz Mansur, Doctor Mehdi, Haji Zaher (the son of the late Haji Qadir), Abdul Latif Pedram and Baktash Siawosh, a popular TV presenter – were already busy campaigning for the position of Speaker of the house(*). His (or her) election would be one of the first developments to take place in parliament once it starts its work and would provide a first indication which MPs would rather be pro-President and which pro-opposition, as well as how united the pro-President camp and the Pashtuns – often equated with each other – would be.

However, it now appears that all of this had been an optimistic haste. Some key issues that were shaping the political debate in the last weeks, were conspicuously absent at the workshop and had been brushed under the carpets of the hotel’s halls.

Firstly, the President. Although, he had announced privately – and his office in public – the date for the inauguration of Parliament (initially 21 January, which was then adjusted to the 23th to fit with his travel plans to Russia), the President’s attitude toward the new house had remained ambiguous. He had not stopped his initial expressions of dissatisfaction about the electoral results. Moreover, he failed to appoint in time the one-third of Senate (Meshrano Jirga, MJ) members whose tenure had expired on 19 December but which, according to the Constitution, are needed – the Parliament can only be inaugurated with both complete houses. (Also, his travel planning without taking the all-important event in Parliament into consideration can be taken as a lack of regard for procedure.) Still, no serious steps appear to have been taken by the presidential office in that direction so far (the only existing list with potential names is reported to include roughly 2000 candidates for 34 seats).

And then, of course, the Special Court set up in December by presidential decree to investigate the indeed intransparent electoral results had not finished its job. On the contrary, its chairman had been quite vocal in the last days, stating that the body was to contact the President to impress on him the necessity of avoiding a premature inauguration of the Parliament. Prior to this, the authority of this court had been defended by the Supreme Court – it also had nominated its members, five judges, with presidential approval – on more than one occasion. Legal questioning of its legitimacy did not lack either, but it came mainly from unofficial quarters, including, naturally, many of the winning candidates at the Interconti. Some 200 of them declared the Special Court’s demand for a delay ‘illegal’ and ‘not binding’, decided to proceed with the inauguration on Sunday and asked the President to send a deputy if he was absent himself. The group was led by outgoing speaker Yunos Qanuni (the leader of the opposition in parliament who, although, never closed the doors toward Karzai), Mohaqqeq (who fluctuated even more between both camps) and, surprisingly, the ambitious Mir Wais Yasini, a Pashtun from Nangrahar who is usually counted amongst the President’s supporters (but is reportedly disliked by him, most probably because he dared to run against him in the 2009 presidential election).

The other judicial body entitled to have a say in the matter, the Commission for the Monitoring and Overview of the Constitution, made some scathing comments to the same effect last week, calling the Special Court ‘illegal’, but has so far refrained from making comments in public.

In fact, at around the same time as the would-be sitting MPs went to the conclusive day of their workshop, a different group of MPs – the failed ones – gathered at the Kabul Court of Appeal for the press conference by the Special Court.

There, the court’s chairman Sediqullah Haqiq proceeded to relate in detail the work done by the court since its establishment: about the 430 cases received and divided into four categories (30 with priority status). The most common types of irregularities to be investigated: the loss of whole ballot boxes, the failure to implement rules on quarantining boxes with suspect numbers of votes and other unclear decisions made by electoral officers during or after the vote. Haqiq further informed that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), when asked to forward to the court data about the partial and final results, including a breakdown for polling stations, had replied with an un-signed letter, sent via the Attorney General office, suggesting the judges could check their website for what they needed – if true, a striking (and most probably intentional) lack of respect. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) when queried by the court about procedures and details of the complaints received, did not bother to answer.

After having announced the intention to recount votes at the provincial or district level if required, Haqiq called for the cooperation of the electoral commissions and other national and international bodies, including UNAMA. (During th whole electoral process, however, the UN has taken the position that it would not play any role, so it is highly unlikely Haqiq will get a positive answer on that one.) He also estimated that the a one-month’s timeline for those investigation was sufficient, and asked to postpone the Parliament’s inauguration until then – but only if investigation were supported by cooperative electoral bodies. (Initially, the court had demanded a deadline of at least one month.) Finally, Haqiq said that if the investigation showed massive fraud, the ‘Afghan nation’ would have to decide on the validity of the elections as a whole.

That, of course, was a bomb-shell.

And it was the signal most ‘disappointed candidates’ were waiting for. When Haqiq mentioned the one-month delay, the hall, crowded with a couple of hundred people, exploded in frantic applause and shouts of ‘Allahu akbar’. After that, many of these candidates displayed a remarkable ability to restrain themselves and calmed down colleagues who wanted to ask questions. If nothing else, they all looked much less disappointed than before.

The Palace also did not sit idle. The head of the IEC, Fazl Ahmad Manawi, was summoned on that same, eventful morning. The main object of the convocation seems to have been to make him accept some sort of compromise – on recounts of votes or changes in the winning candidates’ list – and, at least, to make him meet the head of the Supreme Court, something that happened in the afternoon. It was after this last meeting which went well into the early evening that the presidential office came out announcing publicly the postponement of the Parliament’s inauguration for a full month, while promising solemnly that further delays would not happen.

Manawi, in turn, seemed not to have accepted whatever compromise he may have been proposed, and it is not difficult to guess why. The IEC never quite recovered from the attacks it had suffered late last year from the Attorney General office, and resents any further external interference in its operations. It has, further, never recognized the appointed Special Court. So Manawi released a statement in answer to the presidential decision, denying the court’s legitimacy to change the final results certified by the IEC and wondering how such a body can think of fixing election irregularities better than the responsible commission (with its much larger staff of 80,000) and in a much shorter time.

So, even if the core of the matter would have boiled down to just a couple of replacements in the winners’ lists to accommodate the most dangerous and noisy ‘disappointed’ candidates – and to avoid violence – a solution seems not to be ready at hand. Other candidates, those who had already received their certificates of election months ago and who were at the Interconti workshop yesterday, would probably be even more ready to refuse such a scenario. One can only hope that they will have enough common sense – and common interests – to avoid the treacherous but always present fault line that threatens to pit Pashtuns against non-Pashtuns, and vice-versa.

 

The presidential camp might find the continuing political impasse favourable to their interests and be happy that it blocks the Parliament for a while. This would give the President time to carefully select new senators and strengthen their role in the absence of a Lower House. (There are even rumours that some Jihadi leaders have advocated for holding new elections in a few years time and work without a Wolesi Jirga in the meantime, giving much more power to the Senate.) This state of things could be drawn out for quite a while; given the kind of elections we had, the Special Court will have no difficulty to detect some ‘massive fraud’ and to blow the elections up for good, much to the detriment of the ‘international community’ which did its best to let the election result appear legitimate.

Then, as Haqiq has suggested, it might be up to the ‘Afghan nation’ to pick up the pieces and decide the best course. One wonders what ‘nation’ means in this context: another election in a more and more devastated human landscape, another (Loya) Jirga hand-picked by the government, or a backroom decision by the President’s kitchen-cabinet (i.e. the ‘Jehadi leaders’ left in the system, the vice-presidents and the key presidential advisors)? And who would dare take charge of another Afghan election in the near future? The kitchen cabinet, as could be expected, has already been called in by the President a couple of time over the last few days.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Parliament is being pushed to new limits of humiliation and de-legitimization. At the start of its second legislative period – and in the first year of the Western ‘drawdown’ – looms another institutional deadlock which makes intentions to ‘hand over responsibilities’ not yet look like a good idea.

(*) Other candidates to the position are the Speaker of the 2005-10 WJ Yunos Qanuni and incumbent MPs Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Mir Wais Yassini.

Tags:

Democratization Government

Authors:

Fabrizio Foschini

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