News - Afghanistan
Members of the Electoral Reform Commission, formed by President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah last month, said on Tuesday that they continue to await working orders from National Unity Government (NGU) leaders, who were reportedly still in disagreement on a number of key issues regarding the commission.
The Electoral Reform Commission and its pro-reform compatriots in civil society believe reform is essential to remediating the damage to public trust caused by the rampant fraud, delays and general tumult of the 2014 presidential elections. And electoral monitoring groups have emphasized the short time frame reformers have to work with, given that provincial elections were originally scheduled to take place by June of 2015.
"Developing trust between the nation and elections is very important, it can help electoral legitimacy and transparency, but with the current situation, if significant steps are not taken regarding the issues, and the situation stays the same, it will be very difficult to guarantee the government's legitimacy, performance and achievements," said Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, the chairman of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA).
When the national unity government first came into power, well over six months ago, its leaders pledged to pursue rigorous reform within the country's electoral system, especially in regard to the national election commissions. The agreement to do so was, in fact, a central tenet of the negotiated end to the standoff between Ghani and Abdullah that had gripped the country for months.
This week, Siddiqullah Tawhidi, a deputy on the government's reform commission, spoke candidly about the cause for delay in the reform agenda. "The clear reason for the commission not starting work is disagreements between the president and CEO on the composition of the commission, and also there are some concerns over the commission's members, over their job descriptions, because their job descriptions only describe them as an advisory commission, the final decision authority being with the President," Tawhidi said on Tuesday.
The reform commission was formed just before President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah departed for their lengthy trip to the United States. Under mounting pressure to pursue electoral reform, President Ghani issued a decree that formed the committee of 15 people, giving its leadership to MP Barekzai and her deputy, Tawhedi.
Amid debate over the proper timing of parliamentary elections given the sluggishness of reform, the President's Second Vice President told reporters elections would likely not be held until next year.
Among the other commitments made by Ghani and Abdullah in their agreement to form the national unity government was the convening of a Loya Jirga to modify the Afghan Constitution. However, if parliamentary elections are indeed held next year, the likelihood of a Loya Jirga being held within the second year of the national unity government is shot, as district council representatives must first be chosen following the election, and if one thing has been made consistently true with the current administration, it is that delays are expected.