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

The Costly Standoff between Parliament and Government

|

The Costly Standoff between Parliament and Government

The standoff between the Wolesi Jirga as the lower house of the country's Parliament and the government headed by President Karzai has taken a sharp turn for worse. This costly political tug-of-war revolves around the special tribunal set up by the Supreme Court and endorsed by the government to investigate the cases of electoral fraud and irregularities committed during the last Parliamentary elections. The final verdict of the tribunal, rumored to have the effect of unseating tens of sitting MPs, has repeatedly been delayedwith the result of unnerving the Wolesi Jirga in general and those MPs whose names are allegedly on the list in particular. The Wolesi Jirga's decision to postpone its 45-day summer recess is a sign of MPs' growing uneaseoverthe prospect of the special tribunal's imminent verdict.According to unconfirmed reports, the tribunal's final verdict, if ever released and enforced, is set to implicate anywhere between 50 and 80 of the current MPs on account of electoral fraud.These implicated MPs will be required tosurrender their seats in the parliament to those that the Tribunal will announce as the genuine winners.

Seven ministries in the government continue to be run under acting ministers forone and half year now. In addition, the prosecutor-general, three judges of the Supreme Court, director-general of the National Security Directorate, the head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, the Governor of Da Afghanistan Bank which is the country's Central Bank and two members of the Constitution oversight commission also should receive their confirmation and vote of confidence from the Parliament. President Karzai had on many occasions promised to send his nomination list of seven pending ministers to the Parliament for the vote of confidence but the list of nominees has never been forthcoming. Reportedly, the president has finally caved in to the stern requests of the Wolesi Jirga and has promised to send the nomination list on 20th of this month. Repeated delays on the part of the President to take the Parliament into confidence and send in his ministers for the final confirmation, hadirked the parliamentarians who, a few days ago,showed their displeasure by holding the official Wolesi Jirga proceedings in silence forthreeconsecutive days.

If the reports concerning the president's decision to finally send in the list of ministers are true,this will work to ease the pressure off the troubled relations between the parliament and the government as the two pillars of the Afghan state. The seven prospective ministers from the president's cabinet should be able to secure votes of confidence from the parliament and this certainly will not come easy for these proposed ministers and President Karzai. In the past, when the Parliament has been due to receive new nominations for the crucial vote of confidence, what has usuallyhappenedbefore the voting day has beenintense lobbying by the government and the prospective ministers to secure positive votes of the MPs. On many occasions, this lobbying has gone to the extent of outright influence peddlingby the prospective ministers concerned and has actually resulted in undemocratic ways of securing votes. This time, if the President will send the list of his nominees on June 20, we will again witness the usual political wheeling and dealing in the days and nights before the voting day.

What is troubling is the kind of mutual distrust that governs the relations between the Parliament and the government headed by President Karzai. The relations between these two important pillars of the state have largely been characterized by a destabilizing rivalry which has been a reason for the kind of deadlock and stalemate that the administration of the country has been facing. It is true that in a presidential system of governance, the government as the executive and theparliament as the Legislature often disagree on many issues of national importance and this is largely because the parliament is supposed to act as a check and balance to the power of the Executive. When, on one hand, the president is given the levers of power by the direct or indirect vote of the people, on the other hand, the same people choose their representatives directly or indirectly to provide a mechanism of holding the president and the Executive power to account. However, in a democracy, whether in theory or practice, this separation of powers is not intended to bring about the kind of political stalemate anddeadlock that we see now in the country.A spirit of mutual trust, understanding and coordination and collaboration between the parliament and the government is now painfully missing with neither side is willing to compromise in the interest of the people and country.Unfortunately, apart from this political stalemate, the confrontation between the parliament and the government is further contributing to a breakdown of governance and rule of law across the country at a time when the country and the Afghan state is under the siege of Taliban and engaged in a devastating proxy war with outside powers.

The government and President Karzai in particular do not seem likely or willing to announce the verdict of the special tribunal any time soon. As evident, President Karzai would like to continue to use the possible verdict as a powerful lever in hand over the rebellious MPs to extract concessions out of the parliament and push the government's agendas inside the lower house. Most probably, the President will use this lever to push for the approval of his ministers set to be sent to parliament to stand for the vote before the MPs. Many of the vulnerable MPs with names on the special tribunal's blacklist might very well fall for this strategy willing to extend a helping hand to the government in return for less harsh treatment by the tribunal and the government. The saga of the special tribunal is despite the fact that many legal experts including the Constitutional oversight commission had expressly declared that the special tribunal does not find any legal justification and its setting up and working is against the laws of the country. Rapidly rising graph of Taliban insurgency, spreading insecurity, crippling corruption, poverty and unemployment are only a few of the existential threats that the country faces at this juncture. In such a dire situation, prolonging and deepening this crisis only amounts to alienating the people and our foreign allies and giving the Taliban the upper hand in the ongoing war.

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

Go Top