Afghan Parliament As Center Of Opposition To President Hamid Karzai?

The final, final results of Afghanistan's parliamentary elections are still not on the web, but the preliminary totals indicate that the country's new legislature can be dominated by politicians who not necessarily are supportive to President Karzai.

On October 23, Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced that a provisional tally of the votes cast in the September 18 election had been completed.
The JEMB said that final, certified results would be released by the end of October. No date has yet been set for the parliament's first session, but a
source within the president's office indicated that legislators would probably
convene in mid December.

Euroasianet reports: "Election officials found evidence of fraud during the ballot-counting process. At one point in early October, a JEMB official said roughly 4 percent of ballot boxes had been set aside because of suspected tampering. At the same time, the JEMB official maintained that attempts to fix the vote had occurred mainly on the local level and did not significantly influence the overall results. Ultimately, over 650 ballot boxes were excluded by the JEMB after it determined that they were tainted by fraud. On October 21, Karzai urged Afghans to accept the election results despite the vote-rigging.

The preliminary totals indicate that leaders of the Mujaheddin - guerrilla
commanders who led the Afghan resistance to the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, and who later fought against each other during the ensuing civil war - will dominate the lower house of the Afghan parliament, or Wolesi Jirga, controlling a majority of the 249 seats. Many Mujaheddin leaders retain strong ties to armed groups that control much of Afghanistan outside of the capital Kabul. Over the past year or so, Karzai has tried to push Mujaheddin commanders out of positions of power. Among the high-profile Mujaheddin that Karzai succeeded in sidelining was Mohammad Fahim, who had served as a vice president and defense minister.

Given the existing tension between Karzai and the Mujaheddin, the parliament could easily develop into a center of opposition to the president. Indeed, one of the leading vote getters in the election appears to be Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the Hizb-i-Wahdat faction, who is an implacable political enemy of Karzai. Mohaqiq's Hizb-i-Wahdat faction, which is widely supported by ethnic Hazaras, was among the groups that fought the Soviets, and subsequently resisted Taliban efforts to conquer all of Afghanistan. Mohaqiq joined the transitional government as planning minister, but was dismissed after announcing that he would challenge Karzai in the October 2004 presidential election.
Mohaqiq has accused Karzai's government of favoring the president's own Pashtun community over Afghanistan's other ethnic groups, including Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks.

Several prominent Tajik political leaders - including Yunus Qanooni, the former
education minister in the transitional government, and Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as Afghan president from 1992-96 - also appear to have secured parliamentary seats. Tajik militias were prominent in the resistance to Soviet occupation and provided the primary domestic opposition to the Taliban. Tajik commanders have become embittered with Karzai's rule, however, as the president has persistently acted to curb Tajik influence in the central government. As a result, some political experts in Kabul expect Tajik leaders to try to use parliament to reclaim what they believe to be their rightful share of power.

Whether the Mujaheddin leaders will be able to coalesce into a solid parliamentary force that can exert pressure on the president remains questionable. First, the question of parliamentary leadership will have to be settled, and there are indications that the personal ambitions of several Mujaheddin leaders could disrupt the legislature's ability to operate smoothly. Mohaqiq, Qanooni and Rabbani already have started politicking to be elected parliament speaker.

The political maneuvering could prove especially divisive for the ethnic Tajik
parliament faction, said Fahim, who like Qanooni and Rabbani is a Tajik. "Qanooni should be the parliament speaker because he is young and popular not only in Kabul, but even in northern and southern regions, and he has proven his potential ... as a leader," Fahim said in an interview. "But I am sure that from the day that official results are announced to the opening session [of parliament], we [Tajik political leaders] will have a large task of working things out between Qanooni and Rabbani."

Eurasianet 10/27/2005

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Dagboek Archief

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