News / Asia

Afghan Parliament Still Finding Its Voice in the Midst of an Insurgency

Gary Thomas

The parliament of Afghanistan, for which voters cast their ballots Saturday, is a product of the international conference that laid out the foundations for a new post-Taliban system. Nine years after that conference in Bonn, Germany, the Afghan parliament is still very much a work in progress.

Under the outline of the Bonn Agreement, the Afghan parliament is designed to be a co-equal in the triad of a new democratic government, along with executive and judicial branches.  But U.S. Army War College professor Larry Goodson says most power still rests with President Hamid Karzai.

"I do think that parliament is beginning to develop, as an institution, some ability to push back against the executive, but it's still very much a weak sister.  I still think it's very much an executive-dominated political system," he said.

In January, parliament did push back by refusing to ratify 17 of President Karzai's ministerial appointments.  Former European Union Special Representative to Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell says the president is hoping to get a more friendly legislature this time around. "Some people think that President Karzai will manage through fraud to obtain a pliant parliament.  I suspect he would like to get a more pliant parliament than he has now.  But it's not going to be as easy as all that," he said.

The reason that may prove difficult, say analysts, is because there are no organized political parties in Afghanistan that field slates of candidates in multiple constituencies.  There are some parties, but they are primarily vehicles for a single individual.  So there is no party discipline allowing the president to corral votes.

Instead, says Larry Goodson, political alliances are made not along party lines but ethnic ones. "Parliament has proven to be a place where Tajik and Uzbek and Hazara and other folks that don't come from Karzai's Pashtun ethnic group can oppose things and gain credit with their ethnic supporters, that they're opposing things that Karzai, a Pashtun, is pushing forward," he said.

Francesc Vendrell says parliament is still finding its voice in the midst of an insurgency. "I think it was far from being a perfect parliament, and a lot of money was being exchanged to buy votes by one faction or another one.  But, it was the beginnings.  And I still think that they deserve support," said Vendrell.

Vendrell, who participated in the 2001 Bonn Conference and still talks with many diplomats, believes that many Western countries do not to consider the parliamentary polls all that important.

"Western governments do not care whether these elections are fair or not.  They have already given up on the idea that Afghanistan should have credible elections.  And since they are this time for parliament and not for the presidency, I don't think that you have too many governments - at least in the West and I suppose elsewhere - looking too carefully as to how these elections are conducted," he said.

But the Army War College's Larry Goodson says that if they don't, they should. "It's critical for U.S. strategy because the U.S. strategy is based on producing a better, more legitimate government that it can begin to more effectively turn things over to in preparation for the withdrawal that has been planned and announced starting in the summer of next year," he said.

The U.S. and its allies have criticized the Karzai government for corruption, which, analysts say, has damaged the president's credibility.  And the last parliamentary elections in 2005 and last year's presidential election that gave President Karzai a second term were both marred by charges of widespread electoral fraud.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs