Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Parliament Should Resolve Reform Deadlock

The national unity government and the parliament of Afghanistan is once again facing a major test of commitment as the parliament has reopened discussions over the presidential decree on electoral reforms. The decree needs to be approved by the parliament to pave the way for implementation of the electoral reforms and proceeding with the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections. It took a long time for the government to send the decree on structure, duties and authorities of the electoral commissions to the parliament after MPs refused to approve the similar decree on elections last year. So this time, it is crucial for the parliament and the government to have the law approved and the stalemate over the reforms process resolved. The failure to approve the presidential decree this time would complicate the reforms process and compound the challenges in the way of the upcoming parliamentary and provincial council elections.
The failure to approve the presidential decree on electoral reform last year was a major setback in the efforts to reform the electoral system and hold the parliamentary elections on time. The MPs argued that discussing the decree was against the law and that the constitution did not allow the house to modify the electoral laws. As a result of the failure, the parliamentary election was further delayed and the lawmakers continued to serve illegally and beyond their legal tenure. The lawmakers once again lack the commitment to back the decree and pave the way for the implementation of the electoral reforms and the parliamentary election. With the MPs in the lower house of the parliament divided over the new presidential decree over electoral reform, heated debates are expected in the house in the coming days and weeks.
The failure to deliver the electoral reforms has been a major failure for the national unity government since it took over two years ago. But, the parliament has also had a major role in the failure with the last year refusal of the presidential decree. Since last year, the government and the parliament should have made enough negotiations over how to smoothly approve the law on the electoral reforms and avoid another failure in the process. But the heated debates in the recent session of the parliament showed that nothing is done for persuading the lawmakers to approve the decree and allowing the reforms go ahead. The recent controversies over the presidential decree in the parliament showed that the government has done no efforts to convince the MPs to vote for the proposed reforms in the electoral laws.
On the other hand, the debates showed that the lawmakers still lack the sense of responsibility to notice the impacts of another setback on the reforms process and the upcoming elections.
A major problem with the parliament is that many of the lawmakers oppose the crucial decree because of other political motives and discontents they have with the government. With no doubt there are also many among the lawmakers who do not want the electoral reforms to succeed that would pave the way for the parliamentary election which would mean the MPs would be removed from office.
Anyway, apart from the government’s systemic failures, the ball now is in the lawmakers’ court. The parliament is going to play a role in the process of bringing reforms to the electoral system and holding the country’s upcoming elections. The question now is what role the lawmakers are going to play. Are they going to contribute to the failures of the government in the process or approve the proposed decree and safeguard the whole process? Whatever the individual motives behind the lawmakers’ actions, they need to realize that any shortcoming for their side would be a historic mistake in its part in the electoral reforms process and the prospect of the upcoming elections.
Afghanistan is awaiting two crucial international conferences this year. The international community expects progresses in the process of reforming the electoral system and paving the way for a sound and transparent election. Both the government and the parliament know well that the international community is not going to fund Afghanistan’s future elections unless there are convincing progresses on the side of the Afghan government to carry out the crucial reforms. This is while the parliament of Afghanistan has lost legitimacy and credibility as the lawmakers are serving far beyond their legal terms. Any attempt to block the reforms by refusing to approve the presidential decree would further undermine credibility of the house.
The only way forward for the government and the parliament in the current stalemate is to work together and resolve the deadlock in the process. If the government and the parliament fail to conduct constructive engagement, another failure and further delay of the parliamentary elections would be inevitable.
Regrettably, the parliament has proved to be vulnerable to political wrangling in difficult times when the country needs the lawmakers to remain united and committed to resolve legal challenges in the country. The expectations from the parliament over the reform process are high and the lawmakers need to realize them and resolve the stalemate in the process of electoral reforms.