Published on 29 Sep 2011 at 12:52
September 18 marked one year exactly since the fraud-stained 2010 Parliamentary elections. In that year, the legislature and the executive branches have been locked in a constant struggle that has prevented Parliament from undertaking any responsible work.
On Saturday, September 18, Parliament should have been in session. But one year after the September 18, 2010 parliamentary election the legislature was unable to summon a quorum to open debate.
Nine months after its inauguration, Parliament has little to show for its efforts and lately cannot even summon a quorum. Factions have emerged and several groups within the legislature continue to battle over the election results and refuse even to come to Assembly.
This crisis began after the final results of Parliamentary elections were declared by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on November 24, 2010. The release of the election results was delayed several times after a long and complicated complaints adjudication process. Immediately following the release, losing candidates began to protest, citing cases of electoral fraud.
From left: Zahir Qadir the head of the Coalition, President Hamid Karzai
and Seddiq Haqiq the head of Special Court
After some hesitation, President Hamid Karzai inaugurated the Parliament on January 26, 2011.
Although the winning candidates entered Parliament, they were unable to take-on their legislative duties faced with the battle for Speaker’s chair. With various interests at stake, the legislature took over a month to install Mr. Abdul Rauf Abrahimi as Speaker. This began to propagate an image of a disjointed legislature, unable to unite in their own interests.
Doubts around the election results still lingered and in December the president established a Special Court to look into alleged cases of electoral fraud. This inflamed tensions between the executive and legislature branches.
MPs called the court “illegal” and continuously asserted that the court’s interference undermined the constitutional authority of Afghanistan’s electoral bodies to adjudicate election results. The majority of MPs asked the president to dissolve the court. But the executive and judiciary branches, particularly the Supreme Court and Attorney General’s Office, supported the Special Court.
At the same time, many losing candidates insisted upon the Special Court’s credibility to continue investigating the results.
The positive side of the formation of the Special Court was that it gave impetus to the lawmakers to unite as a cohesive group against the court’s ruling. Such unity raised hopes over the ability of the legislature to increase its monitoring of executive branch activities and to finally move forward with legislation.
One group of lawmakers united under the “Coalition for the Support of Rule of Law,” which numbers over 100, was formed in response to the Special Court. The Coalition was able to unite lawmakers to issue no-confidence votes in both the Attorney General and several members of the Supreme Court for their intervention in election results and supporting the Special Court.
The Special Court continued it investigations for several months, all but paralyzing legislative activities. On June 23, 2011, the court released its findings, ruling that 62 MPs out of the 249-member body should be disqualified.
This set off a furor that continued through the summer. The 62 MPs who were to be disqualified were indignant; others were irate that the executive branch was meddling in the affairs of the legislature. Parliament postponed its summer recess and went head-to-head with the president.
In August, in an attempt to put an end to the election crisis, President Karzai dissolved the Special Court and referred to the matter to the IEC for final adjudication. On August 21, the IEC ruled that only nine of the 62 MPs were to be disqualified.
This did nothing to mollify the largest group of opponents, the Coalition for the Rule of Law, which is insisting that the composition of Parliament cannot be changed after the IEC already announced its decision last November. They call the disqualification of any sitting MPs as a government “coup d’état” asserting that they will not enter Parliament without the nine disqualified MPs.
According to political analysts and some MPs, the executive has been trying to weaken the legislature, which resulted in the establishment of the Reformists.
“The institution of the Reformists parliamentary group was the result of the government’s prolonged efforts,” said Qasim Akhgar, a political analyst. “The government wanted to dominate the Parliament and put pressure on Coalition for Support the Rule of Law.”
In a talk show broadcasted by TOLO news on September 5, Alimi Balkhi, a prominent member of the “Reformists” group confirmed the group’s support for the government.
“In every parliament there is a group who supports the executive branch and we do the same in Afghan parliament,” Alimi Balkhi said on the talk show.
Alimi Bakhi, Member of Reformist
In addition to Parliament’s external problems with executive and judiciary branches, the formation of the “Reformists” group created internal problems for the lawmakers.
The leadership of the “Reformists” group – Shir Wali Wardak brother of Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak and Sediq Ahmad Osmani brother of Zarar Ahmad Muqbel Minister of Counter-Norcotics – stand against the Coalition for Support the Rule of Law and wanted to decrease the role of the Coalition inside Parliament.
While the Coalition was strongly against bringing any change in the composition of the Parliament, the Reformists supported the IEC’s final decision and called the change beneficial to country’s national interests and an effective act in ending the election crisis.
This prompted Ahmad Behzad, the second deputy Speaker, to dub the Reformists “the government’s anti-riot spies.”
“The government was able to form a group from governmental supporters and some opportunist MPs to act like anti riot police inside the Parliament,” he said.
But the Reformists state that their support for the IEC’s final decision is in support of the law.
“The country fell into a crisis and our national interests should be considered to end it,” said Mohammad Daud Kalakani, a member of the Reformists group. “According to the Constitution, the IEC has the right to decide about election-related issues and its decision has legal basis and is enforceable. Our support for the IEC’s final decision regarding excluding nine MPs, and including nine new ones is supporting the law.”
When will the Parliament be able to summon a quorum?
Mohammad Aref Rahmani, an MP from Ghazni province and the spokesperson for the Coalition for Support of Rule of Law, says that they will continue their efforts and support the nine MPs disqualified by the IEC.
“We ask the executive branch and other relevant bodies in the current election crisis to obey the law,” he said. “The government and its supporters in the Parliament will soon withdraw their stance and will accept our [the Coalition’s] demands.”
Rahmani added that despite the efforts of the executive branch to weaken the Coalition, the group is as strong as ever, as witnessed by their ability to keep MPs out of the Assembly and deny the body a quorum.
Rahmani, Member of the Coalition
According to Jandad Spinghar, Executive Director for Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), the executive branch’s lack of attention to the legislature’s demands and continuation of the current crisis has questioned confidence among voters. This will have bad consequences, he warned.
“The government should have accepted 2010 Parliamentary elections as first declared by the IEC, and it should have not created the current tension,” he said. “The current dispute between the two branches has caused people to lose hope in free and fair elections as well as the value of their vote.”
More than a year after the election, there is no clear end in sight for this crisis.
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