Afghanistan’s parliament on Saturday voted to extend its own term beyond the constitutionally mandated five years. The action is supported by President Ashraf Ghani who wanted to avoid a legal vacuum in the absence of fresh elections.
His office said the decision was taken in consultation with the judiciary, the legislative and the executive branches of government.
Some parliamentarians as well as some legal experts are still questioning the legality of this action.
Parliamentarian Abdul Qader Zazai blamed this constitutional crisis on the infighting between President Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah.
“They were not able to bring the actual reform in the election for the next Wolesi Jirga election,” said Zazai.
He was referring to the promise of electoral reforms made by both Ghani and Abdullah after their last election was mired in allegations of fraud.
Little progress has been made since then because they could not agree on who would lead the reform commission. And the view on the streets of Kabul is as divided as in the halls of power.
One man, Mohammad Amen, said the parliament’s term has ended based on Afghanistan’s constitution. “Why has the president extended their term?” he asked.
While another man, Haji Gul Mohammad, agreed with the extension. “If there is no replacement for them, no new comers, they should stay in parliament.”
Ghani’s office has said a date for fresh parliamentary elections would be announced within a month. But that statement is already facing resistance from the office of the CEO.
Abdullah’s spokesman Jawed Faisal said one month was not enough for the “commission to work and suggest reforms for the government.” He also said that the date for elections could only be announced after the reforms had taken place.
This worries legal experts like Ajmal Hodman who believes the differences between the two will “slow down work that needs to be done.”
The unity government itself was a deal made outside the constitutional framework and is an issue that is yet to be addressed through a Loya Jirga or a Grand Assembly. A delay in elections may put the legality of the whole system in question.