28 Feb.: Corrected
With the Afghan congress having passed an amnesty bill, all eyes are on President Karzai as he considers whether to issue a veto. The Afghan presidency has a veto on legislation that can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in
each the lower house of congress.*
The bill passed the upper house with more than a 75% support (50-16). However, despite considerable searching on both Google and Lexis Nexis, I was unable find a report of the vote in the lower house, except that it was by “majority” (obviously). Thus I am uncertain whether the lower house would have the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto.
I did, however, find an interesting transcript of a debate on Afghan Aina TV (via BBC Monitoring Service, 21 Feb., 2007), including this remark in support of the bill by Haji Abda, an MP from Balkh Province. The Moderator asked about international–specifically Human Rights Watch–opposition to the bill. The MP responded:
Those friends believe that jihadi leaders do not have a suitable status and are rights violators. When one looks at the election results, you will see how much respect these jihadi leaders enjoy amongst the people. When these objectors are asked as to how they entered parliament, then the problem will automatically be resolved. Those who entered parliament with majority of votes mean that the people elected them, but they say the people do not want them. If the people did not want them, why they voted for them?
I can’t deny the MP’s claim that the warlords and Jihadis and their allies who have seats are personally popular. But, of course, the idea that Jihadis in the Afghan parliament have majority support is a bit suspect, given the low turnout, and the small votes shares members received, thanks to the SNTV electoral system.
Abda himself won a whopping 3.7% of the vote in Balkh, where he was sixth of ten candidates elected. More than two thirds of the votes cast in Balkh did not go towards the election of any candidate.
* Apparently, while both houses must give their approval before a bill is presented to the president for his signature or veto, an override vote takes place only in the lower house. At least that is how I read the provisions on legislation in the constitution:
Article 94 [Legislation, Veto, Qualified Vote]
(1) Law is what both Houses of the National Assembly approve and the President endorses unless this Constitution states otherwise.
(2) In case the President does not agree to what the National Assembly approves, he or she can send the document back with justifiable reasons to the House of Representatives [Wolesi Jirga] within fifteen days of its submission.
(3) With the passage of this period or in case the House of Representatives [Wolesi Jirga] approves a particular case again with a majority of two-thirds votes, the bill is considered endorsed and enforced.