Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 18th, 2018

From Railing at Parallel Structures to Weakening Elected Institutions

Over the past few years, President Hamid Karzai has been railing at what he has called "parallel structures" operating outside the law in Afghanistan. In many official and non-official occasions, he has said that foreign aid organizations and security firms are the parallel structures that weaken state's efforts to solely and monopolistically assume the security and governance for the country. While there are cogent reasons to defend the existence of some of these structures- for instance, lack of capacity in Afghan state institutions to absorb foreign aid and the widespread corruption in the administration- the fact is that president Karzai himself has an intent upon undermining democratic institutions while trying to strengthen the role of traditional institutions.

While the president has been and is leaving no stone unturned to weaken the parliament and the future of electoral management bodies - the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission - by setting up extra-constitutional court and arrangement to look into parliamentary election fraud just because he is unhappy with the elections result, on the other hand he is making every bid to pump money into the High Peace Council whose efforts, by far, have reaped no results except for more Afghan deaths in the hands of forces of terror and prepare for the traditional Loya Jirga, which has no legal base in the constitution.

Last week, the house of representatives - Wolesi Jirga - of the National Assembly called president Karzai's traditional Loya Jirga as 'illegal' and said that 'it would not participate in it and would hold the government accountable for its expenses.'

The president has never thought of holding the elections provided for in the constitution to elect district councils elections. Instead, we have the informal community and district councils that could be easily bought. It means that president Karzai thinks that Afghan people do not deserve to have strong democratic and elected institutions. Part of the reason for his push to undermine or prevent elected institutions stems from the centralization of power structure that needs to be changed.

In fact, Afghan people and international community are paying the price for their support to centralize power by establishing a strong presidential system in the constitutional Loya Jirga and in the efforts prior to that. Now with the power centralized in his hand, President Karzai knows very well that strong elected and representative institutions will serve as a bulwark and protector of check and balance, which is a key principle in a democratic political system, and counteract his tendency to become an autocrat and implement his extra-legal wishful thinking. On the other hand, he can easily make deals with traditional institutions to support him in his autocratic attempts. If the president had attached any value and importance to the representative institutions such as district councils, he would not have been trying to convene the traditional Loya Jirga, which just perpetuates the outmoded mechanisms of traditions in the country and strip Afghanistan of the opportunity to transition into the world of modernity, the route to which really passes through the ruins of traditional power structures.

The question that comes up here is, is it not high time to rise up and pool all efforts together against the ongoing attempts to resort to and empower traditional mechanisms at the cost of representative and democratically-elected institutions of the country? It should be mentioned that the future could be only built on decentralization of power structure and strengthening of modern institutions based on rationality as opposed to tradition that can no longer meet the needs of time.