Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Parliamentary Elections in Limbo

On June 22, the Afghan parliament will complete one year extension; however, it is sure that there would not be any parliamentary election before that time. The Wolesi Jirga was elected in September 2010 and it had completed its legal tenure on June 21, 2015. As per the constitution of the country, the election had to be conducted 30-60 days before the expiry of the Parliament, but that did not happen and the parliament’s tenure was extended for one year. Moreover, the Wolesi Jirga passed a resolution in its own favour, extending its tenure till the next parliamentary election. President Ashraf Ghani also passed a decree extending the tenure of the Wolesi Jirga till the next election without mentioning any particular date for the election. It is important to see whether these developments were as per the Afghan constitution.
In accordance to the constitution, there are two legal ways to extend the tenure of the parliament; first, “Loya Jirga should be convened to decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests” and second, in article 147, it is states that “If the presidential term or the legislative term of the National Assembly expires during the state of emergency, the new general elections shall be postponed, and the presidential as well as parliamentary terms shall extend up to four months. If the state of emergency continues for more than four months, the President shall call the Loya Jirga which will decide to further delay the elections or compels the President to hold elections, what may be the situations of the country. Within two months after the termination of the state of emergency, elections shall be held”.
Definitely, the situation, when the tenure of the parliament was extended, was not an emergency situation; neither, the extension given to the parliament was of four months. Moreover, there was no Loya Jirga called to debate the extension of the parliament or the delay of the elections.
It is really unfortunate to see that the political institutions that should promote democracy and protect the constitution the most are themselves involved in violating it. No democracy can flourish without the dominancy of its constitution and without the regular and consistent elections. Unfortunately, the Afghan democracy has to wait for its parliamentary election for the time being.
One of the major hurdles in the parliamentary elections was the election reforms that were promised but were not introduced on time. After 2014 presidential election, President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah after various discussions and assistance from the US, agreed to form National Unity Government (NUG) and bring about necessary reforms in electoral institutions, their roles and responsibilities and at the same time in the overall process before the parliamentary elections. However, no major work was done in that regard on time.  One of the reasons was basically the lack of attention and considerations that were devoted to the task. Over-burdening itself with other issues, NUG was not able to spare time for concentrating on electoral reforms.
On the other hand, there was no consensus regarding the shortcomings in the election institutions and processes. It was only feasible to suggest reforms when the real issues were identified and agreed upon. There seemed to be great differences in the opinion of the president and the CEO in this regard. Both considered different issues as the top priority. And some of the controversies are still present.
Now, that the reform decree is in the parliament, there seems to be differences among the parliament members about the reforms. Mohammad Abdoh, head of parliament’s legal and judicial commission, said on Friday, June 03, that lawmakers seem to be divided over whether to approve the decree or reject it. He said that the views of 12 parliamentary commissions out of 15 commissions have been collected, but half of the commissions agree with the reform package and another half oppose it. Parliament should have decided the fate of the decree within a period of one month but that time has already passed and if now it rejects it, there will be serious consequences and it would be difficult to imagine the elections even in the ongoing year.
Analysts believe that there should be certain lobbying by the government so that the decree is passed through the parliament and some sort of developments are made for election. For Afghanistan it is really vital that the parliamentary election should be held in October as it would help it in bringing about some political stability at a time when the country is going through serious security challenges. However, insecurity itself will be a challenge for the election.
It is of important that Afghanistan does the basics well. A valuable suggestion comes through the Hague Institute for Global Justice in its article: Breaking Afghanistan’s Election Crisis Cycle; Meaningful election reform, overseen by a truly independent IEC and backed by a vigorous, impartial IECC remains vital. Ideally, these procedural changes would be coupled with an electoral system that more faithfully translates popular preferences into electoral results. The use of closed-list proportional representation, for instance, could bolster the viability of political parties substantially, and more accurately reflect voter preferences… Afghanistan continues to face daunting political and economic issues, as well as a growing Taliban insurgency which openly challenges the state’s authority. A sensible electoral system, combined with a well-constructed law on political parties, and well-executed credible elections could help jumpstart Afghanistan’s flagging democracy and produce legitimate political leadership to start addressing those challenges.