Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Parliamentary Crisis, Disastrous Exercise in Political Brinksmanship

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Parliamentary Crisis,  Disastrous Exercise in Political Brinksmanship

The parliamentary crisis involving the special tribunal, the parliament and the government headed by Presi dent Karzai has entered a new phase following the verdict of the tribunal which handed down disqualification of close to one fourth of the parliament MPs. The special tribunal, after being proposed by the Supreme Court and approved by President Karzai, had carried out a sweeping re-count of the votes even counting the tens of thousands of votes that had been nullified by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on grounds of suspected fraud and ballot stuffing.

The verdict disqualifies 62 sitting MPs of Wolesi Jirga, the lower house, including the secretary, deputy and the acting speaker declaring their occupation of parliamentary seats as illegal. The tribunal also ordered for the enforcement of the verdict by the law enforcement agencies. The response of the MPs has been ferocious. In spite of the parliament's fierce opposition to the verdict, the MPs do not have a united stand on the issue, a fact that has been revealed by contradictory statements of individual MPs in support or opposition to the verdict.

A greater majority, however, appear to be steadfast in their refusal to recognize the legality of the tribunal and its verdict and have resorted to whatever in their power to put up a matching force against what they see as outright bullying by the President and the Executive branch. The controversy-turned-crisis, which is in reality a dangerous political brinksmanship by President Karzai, got new twists and turns when the rebellious parliament disqualified in absentia the Attorney General and later the chief justice and five judges of the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, June 28, the Parliament set a 4-day deadline for the Attorney General to step down as per the Parliament's vote of no confidence. On the other hand, the Attorney General and the Supreme Court maintain that their disqualification by the Parliament is illegal, as the Parliament does not possess the power to do so. The special tribunal has given one month time to the disqualified MPs to appeal the verdict in a higher court. The defiant MPs, having taken a formal resolution to stand together through it all, are relentless and in no mind to move an appellate court. The MPs stopped short of preparing the grounds for the impeachment and disqualification of the President Karzai himself after they announced they are considering questioning the President in the Parliament.

It appears that they have put this dangerous move on hold for now. After all, they know that impeaching the President will be in fact bringing down the government, an explosive move that will blow up in the face of everyone and can well escalate into a civil war-like situation in the country. The President is ready to risk disqualification by the Parliament in his game of delicate but dangerous brinksmanship yet confident that even if he is impeached, the vote of a besieged and legally-challenged parliament cannot be enforced.

This ugly confrontation has already resulted into a catastrophic breakdown of the relations between the three branches. The setting up of the special tribunal and the handing down of a verdict has had the effect of damaging the relations between the government and the Parliament beyond repair. Now that the crisis has been placed on a downward slope towards eventual clash and conflict, the legitimacy of the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Attorney General office have effectively been destroyed. The fire that has been ignited with the fueling of this crisis by entrenched interests in the government now threatens to consume everyone involved.

Some political commentators have rightly said that the crisis, by now, has gone out of control. It seems no body will be able to stop the armies of triumphant MPs from descending upon the Parliament and claiming their seats as they know that law, wrongly or rightly, is on their side. For now, the only recourse out of the deadlock seems to be nullifying the verdict by a higher court after the MPs appeal the verdict. The legacy of this crisis and the dangerous precedents that this crisis has created will remain in place even long after the crisis subsides. Who will now fix the broken authority and the trampled legal mandate of the so-called "Independent" Election Commission? The precedent that has been set by setting up a special tribunal, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal, means that from now on and after every parliamentary election the government must set up a tribunal to deal with post-poll complaints. This amounts to destroying the legal mandate of the IEC whose word is supposed to be final.
The origin of the crisis lies in crossing the limits of the law.

The deepening crisis that now sits on the borders of an all-out disaster is a direct result of tossing away the laws of the land and pursuit of authoritarian power by all means possible. President Karzai himself and the government, in their authoritarian urge to weaken, undermine and intimidate the new Legislature and render it impotent from the start, played a major role in dragging the conflict and pulling out this dangerous act of political brinksmanship. The President and all those around him who nudged him on seem confident that they will win the war but do not care that their pursuit of this costly political brinksmanship will come at the cost of setting the country on fire, betraying the people and the cause of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

The confrontation between the Parliament and the government has made the ethnic, linguistic, regional and sectarian fault lines among the Parliamentarians to largely disappear for now as the majority of MPs have stood by each other in the face of the assaults from outside. These ethnic, linguistic and regional divides inside the Parliament is yet another bitter reality that Afghanistan has to deal with. Everyone remembers the long saga of the election of the speaker of the lower house during which the ethnic and linguistic rivalries and divisions dominated the farcical scene. This is yet another issue that holds back the growth, consolidation and maturing of a reformed state that can effectively address the diversities of this land.

As this high-stake game of domination where nobody is ready for accommodation and compromise turns into a disaster, the country continues to burn in the flames of a roaring Taliban insurgency, spreading breakdown of governance, crippling corruption, consolidation of a narco-mafia establishment and outright violation of our territorial integrity and national interests by our neighbors. Dark days will be ahead if those responsible do not forego their personal quest for power in the larger interest of the country and the nation.

The author is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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