Afghanistan: Amnesty bill and party-formation updates

About two months ago, I posed the question, will Karzai veto the Jihadis’ amnesty bill? It was a reference to a bill to provide a sweeping amnesty to former fighters in Afghanistan’s decades of fighting, passed by a congress largely dominated by former fighters themselves. President Hamid Karzai opposed the amnesty, as did international aid organizations. With his office having the constitutional authority to veto legislation, it seemed unlikely that the legislators’ act would be the final word. (A veto takes two thirds to override, although my reading of the constitution is that the override vote takes place only in the lower house, notwithstanding the bicameral nature of the Afghanistani congress.)

Indeed, congress did not have the final word. But that is not to say that Karzai vetoed the bill. Instead, he recommended amendments to some provisions, and congress passed a new bill that incorporated his suggestions–or some of then; details are sketchy in the several sources I consulted. Deep within an LA Times story, it is noted:

[Karzai’s] office managed to add the provision about an individual’s right to file charges, amending what was virtually a blanket amnesty.

Separation of powers at work.

In previous discussions, I have noted how unrepresentative the Afghan congress is, given that it was elected in a purely candidate-based system (single nontransferable vote), with no party labels, and with a very high rate of wasted votes. A recent item in The Economist picks up on the theme of the party-less legislative process, and notes that parties are now forming from within the congress.

IN THE 18 months since it was elected, Afghanistan’s first democratic legislature has been in a peculiar limbo: it is a parliament without parties. Candidates were not allowed to declare party affiliations on the ballot paper. The result has been a chaotic parliament of individuals, often elected on the promise of patronage and by virtue of ethnic affiliation. The parliament has criticised the increasingly isolated president, Hamid Karzai. But its positive achievements have been few.

Now change is stirring. Several alliances with sketchy political platforms are being mooted. The first of these, the National Unity Front, was unveiled in March by a group of parliamentarians and members of the government. It proposes various constitutional reforms, including electing provincial governors directly and creating a new post of prime minister in order to curb the power of the president. The Front denies wanting to be an opposition party, promising to work alongside the government in pursuit of “national unity”. [read full article]

Both of these developments represent advances for the constitutional and legislative processes in that war-torn country.

0 thoughts on “Afghanistan: Amnesty bill and party-formation updates

  1. Of relevance to, albeit too late for inclusion in, Shugart and Samuels (forthcoming):

    A VERY experienced electoral administrator once remarked that sometimes you can’t find the dead body but you can smell it. The stench that surrounds the Afghan presidential election of August 20 is now so strong that it is quite impossible to ignore, and a lot of body parts have washed up on the shoreline. How the wider world responds will be a measure of how seriously its protestations of commitment to Afghanistan are to be taken. […] Another problem was the reckless adoption of a presidential system of government that produced an overloaded executive and personalised politics. […] in presidential systems, the fall of a president typically brings down a raft of associates who will fall a lot further, and not necessarily enjoy a soft landing.”

    – William Maley, “Karzai’s victory has stench of fraud”,The Australian (9 September 2009).

    Prof Maley is a very eminent commentator on Australian and Asian politics. I do however recall his scathing review (59 Current Affairs Bulletin, 1982) of Jack Wright’s Mirror of the Nation’s Mind (1980). Maley criticised STV-PR both (a) for leading to fragmented multi-party systems and unworkable hung Parliaments, and, at the same time, (b) for giving the Maltese Labour Party a majority of seats with only 49% of the votes, against the 50.1% polled by the Nationals

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