Published on 16 May 2012 at 11:46
On April 12, President Karzai announced he would consider pushing forward the election timetable, moving the next presidential election from 2014 to 2013, so that the election would not take place alongside the 2014 international troop withdrawal. In response, many lawmakers, media outlets, political parties and other stakeholders are raising tough questions about this proposal. But, does the Constitution of Afghanistan even allow us to consider pushing up the election?
During an April 30 press conference to explain changes introduced in the new draft of the Election Law, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), told reporters that the upcoming presidential election – currently scheduled for May 2014 – would be conducted in accordance with the elections timetable established in the Afghan Constitution. Manawi asserted that the Constitution has determined specific dates for presidential elections and no one has the right to violate the law.
In addition to Manawi’s assertion that the election timetable will stay as it is, the government’s two main opposition parties –Afghanistan’s National Front and the National Coalition – released a joint statement insisting the presidential election must be conducted based on the constitutionally mandated timetable.
Press conferences and joint statements aside, what exactly is the position of the Constitution about pushing up the election? Is there any constitutional provision which would allow elections to be held earlier than scheduled?
Article 61 of the Constitution stipulates that a president’s term expires after five years in office, which for President Karzai’s term occurs on May 21, 2014. Citizens shall elect their new president within thirty to sixty days prior to the end of the presidential term. Article 61 explains this issue quite clearly with little need for legal interpretation. The Constitution does, however, go on to explain the conditions under which a presidential election could be held earlier than scheduled.
Following consultation with his advisors, President Karzai announced the possibility of holding the presidential election one year earlier in 2013. Since this announcement, the president has remained silent on the issue and has provided no further details or proposals.
According to article 67 of the Constitution, in the event of a president’s resignation, impeachment, death, or any incurable illness impeding performance of duty, the First Vice-President shall assume authorities and duties of the president. Article 67 further explains that elections for the new president shall be held within three months from the date the president is no longer able to assume his or her duties.
Following consultation with his advisors, President Karzai announced the possibility of holding the presidential election one year earlier in 2013. Since this announcement, the president has remained silent on the issue and has provided no further details or proposals. Nonetheless, his suggestion to hold pre-scheduled elections has raised some tough discussions.
Advocates for the 2013 election argue that the security situation will deteriorate following foreign troop withdrawal in 2014 and the Afghan Security Forces will be unable to ensure ample security for the 2014 presidential election.
Undoubtedly, security forces will face many challenges following foreign troop withdrawal while also marshalling substantial resources to fully control the 2014 election. Regardless, Afghanistan’s legal framework is clear on what conditions permit earlier elections. The security argument does not qualify under these conditions.
Experience has shown that formal rule of law hasn’t yet been institutionalized in Afghanistan and so often we see that traditional gatherings of political and tribal leaders are used to address such situations (take the Jirga for example). For sure, bringing together political and tribal leaders could provide a solution if discussions intensify over the election timetable. But, such a gathering would involve many government opposition leaders, who seriously criticize the government these days and do not seem ready to compromise on any issue proposed by the Karzai administration.
What approach will work to bring the government, the opposition and all other Afghan political parties together? All sides of this debate should understand that fair and transparent elections will be increasingly difficult after foreign troop withdrawal. The 2009 presidential and 2010 National Assembly elections showed that security challenges can affect the transparency of the election process.
But, again, according to the Constitution, holding earlier elections is possible only if the president resigns. And presumably President Karzai has no intention to resign and will carry out the remainder of his term. For these myriad of reasons, is it really worth our time to put pressure on the issue?
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- Slain London soldier was 'loving father' who served in Afghanistan - NBCNews.com
- 'Currahees' uncase colors in Afghanistan - United States Army (press release)
- Mass. soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered - Boston.com
- Mes Aynak highlights Afghanistan's dilemma over protecting heritage - The Guardian
- I Traveled Through Afghanistan And Didn't See Another Tourist - Business Insider
- White House adviser on Afghanistan nominated as new US envoy to NATO - Stars and Stripes
- The sooner the US exits Afghanistan, the better - The Guardian