Published on 20 Feb 2012 at 08:48
With the parliament again in session, lawmakers are enthusiastic to carry out their main duties during the upcoming year. But many analysts believe that the Wolesi Jirga remains weakened and politically marred from internal disputes which characterized its first legislative year.
The second legislative year of the Afghan Parliament started on Saturday, January 21. Lawmakers hope to work in line with the Constitution and to push forward the many laws and international agreements pending legislative approval this year. But, analysts warn that Parliament will once again struggle with internal disputes, preventing it from carrying out its main duties and responsibilities.
The first legislative year of the second Parliament was fraught with myriad disputes. Namely, the dispute over election results between the executive and the legislature nearly paralyzed legislative action for several months. Yet, it is unclear what will be the top priorities for lawmakers in the second year of legislation. Will the body be able to work productively or will it again be stymied by internal conflicts?
Hussein Alimi Balkhi, a Member of Parliament (MP) from Kabul and member of the Reformists group, believes that this will be a very busy year for the Wolesi Jirga (upper house of Parliament). “We will work on various issues including approval of different laws, monitoring government activities, and giving votes of confidence to the remaining cabinet ministers,” he says.
According to the Ministry of Justice, last year 14 draft laws and treaties were sent to the Parliament for approval, but many of them remained unapproved.
Yusuf Halim, Deputy Minister of Justice said that parliamentarians were too engaged in their own internal disputes rather than pushing forward needed legislation.
Lalai Hamidzai, an MP from Kandahar and member of the Coalition for Support of the Rule of Law (CSRL), accepts that parliamentarians were engaged in internal disputes over the past year. He claims that parliamentarians divided into different groups and were unable to work proper but as a result of government intervention.
“70 percent of our problems have been solved for the coming year,” he suggests. “The Parliament, particularly the CSRL agenda, will focus mainly on monitoring government activities.”
According to Hamidzai, the CSRL has asked the President to send all foreign treaties for confirmation and introduce remaining cabinet ministers to receive votes of confidence from the parliament.
According to Balkhi, the Reformists will make every effort not to engage in parliament’s internal disputes. Instead, they will aim to push forward the cabinet ministers and members of the Supreme Court for confirmation. “We will have to approve various laws including the electoral law, higher education law, laws for the courts, prison law, and some others laws” he said. “When laws or agreements come to parliament for confirmation, they naturally face both favor and opposition. We have seen such disputes in other parliaments of the world. For instance, lawmakers physically abused each other in Ukraine.”
“An incurable problem will emerge if the executive and the legislature once again engage in dispute,” said Hamidzai. “The executive and the legislature both should carry out their responsibilities in line with the Constitution to protect the country from political crisis.”
But analysts are not too optimistic about the second parliament.
“The parliament revealed its weakness when it elected an incapable speaker,” said Wahid Mujda, a political analyst. “There are some people in the legislature that know nothing about the great role and importance of the body. Unfortunately, this is a symbolic parliament and is doing nothing.”
Last year, due to the use of blank votes and internal squabbling, lawmakers were unable to elect a speaker of the lower house for a month and a half. Finally, a deal was made to elect Abdul Raoof Ibrahimi as Speaker in February, 2011.
“Wolesi Jirga has been asking President Karzai for almost a year to introduce the remaining cabinet ministers for confirmation, but the president did not care,” said Mujda. “Now that the government knows that the Parliament is weak, it did not interfere in the election of the two deputy speakers.”
Analysts believe that still there is no sign that the Wolesi Jirga has overcome its weaknesses to resolve the impasses of the previous year. The MPs are still unable to elect the second deputy speaker and many of them use blank votes.
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