News - Afghanistan
With just 17 days until the end of the current term for MPs in Parliament, and still no election scheduled, lawmakers on Thursday said they would have no choice but to continue on as acting representatives until the government can get its act together and hold new elections.
Although the national unity government has relied on acting ministers in key ministries for most of its first year in power, the possibility of elected representatives continuing in their offices beyond the timeframe they were elected and constitutionally empowered for has raised even greater controversy.
On Thursday, MPs, election monitoring groups and civil society activists gathered to discuss the present situation - how to interpret the Afghan Constitution, how to ensure prompt elections and how to maintain the trust of the Afghan public.
According to legislators, Article 83 of the Afghan Constitution is the relevant guide for how to approach the current dilemma. Article 83 says that June 22 is the last day of the term for MPs, following the announcement of election results.
"Luckily, I must say that people of Afghanistan are very alert and are not happy with the current parliament," MP Abdul Qader Zazai said on Thursday. "Oversight by the House, and the actions that it needed to take in accordance with the Constitution, have not taken place," he added.
MP Nasrullah Sadeqizada Neeli pointed blame at the national unity government for the looming political crisis. After all, it is disagreements among leaders of the government over how to pursue electoral reform that has delayed the scheduling of parliamentary elections.
Neeli argued that, given the present situation, MPs should be able to continue on with legal protections until an election can be held. "When we call the Parliament ' llegal', who can make it legal then?" he asked.
Based on the current election laws, an Election Day must be announced at least 120 days before it is held.
"The election time is very close, and we are also getting closer to other problems and miseries," Lower House Deputy Speaker Muhammad Nazeer Ahmadzai said. "The best way is for foreign governments and the Afghan government to bring changes to the electoral system in order to gain trust and then we can have transparent elections."
But even important questions such as how to plan elections with the government in a stalemate on reform are less pressing then more immediate ones such as the approval or rejection of the nominee for Minister of Defense (MoD). Pending a ruling on the status of representatives after June 22, lawmakers in Parliament have 17 days to review and vote on the candidacy of Masoom Stanekzai.
"All the documents of Mr. Stanekzai, the nominee for the Ministry of Defense, have been sent to the House of Representatives," State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ghulam Nabi Farahi said on Thursday. "Most probably, a decision regarding the day when Mr. Stanekzai will present his programs will be decided during the commissions heads meeting at the House of Representatives on Sunday."
In addition to concerns about the legal status of MPs in lieu of new parliamentary elections, concerns have started to increase regarding the Loya Jirga the national unity government vowed to hold within a year of its formation.