Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 1st, 2017

No Clarity about Parliamentary Elections

One of the most important elements of a democratic system is elections. Timely and regular elections ensure smooth functioning of a democratic system. However, if the elections are not held on time within a political system, there are many possibilities that the overall system collapses and becomes instable and even illegitimate. Therefore, it is necessary that a government and the relevant authorities within a democracy must strive to hold all the elections as suggested by the constitution of the country. Otherwise, there will not be any reliability of the constitutions and there will not be any chances of changing the government or the parliament as per the people’s will. And, democracy, in that case, will not remain a democracy in a true sense.
Afghanistan is also a country that claims to be democratic but, unfortunately, it has not been able to conduct elections that may qualify to be free and transparent and now it is suffering from incapacity to hold its parliamentary elections though the tenure of the parliament has expired for more than a year now. The Wolesi Jirga was elected in September 2010 and it had completed its legal tenure on 21st June, 2015. As per the constitution of the country, the election had to be conducted 30-60 days before the expiry of the Parliament, but that did not happen and the parliament’s tenure was extended for one year. Moreover, the Wolesi Jirga passed a resolution in its own favour, extending its tenure till the next parliamentary election.
President Ashraf Ghani also passed a decree extending the tenure of the Wolesi Jirga till the next election without mentioning any particular date for the election. It is important to see whether these developments were as per the Afghan constitution. In accordance to the constitution, there are two legal ways to extend the tenure of the parliament; first, “Loya Jirga should be convened to decide on issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as supreme national interests” and second, in article 147, it is states that “If the presidential term or the legislative term of the National Assembly expires during the state of emergency, the new general elections shall be postponed, and the presidential as well as parliamentary terms shall extend up to four months. If the state of emergency continues for more than four months, the President shall call the Loya Jirga which will decide to further delay the elections or compels the President to hold elections, what may be the situations of the country. Within two months after the termination of the state of emergency, elections shall be held”.
Definitely, the situation, when the tenure of the parliament was extended, was not an emergency situation; neither, the extension given to the parliament was of four months. Moreover, there was no Loya Jirga called to debate the extension of the parliament or the delay of the elections. It is really unfortunate to see that the political institutions that should promote democracy and protect the constitution the most are themselves involved in violating it. No democracy can flourish without the dominancy of its constitution and without the regular and consistent elections. Unfortunately, the Afghan democracy has to wait for its parliamentary election for the time being.
One of the major hurdles in the parliamentary elections was the election reforms that were promised but were not introduced on time. In the presidential election there were serious allegations of fraud and inconsistencies, which ultimately resulted in conflicts between President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. After various discussions and assistance from the US, both agreed to form National Unity Government (NUG) and bring about necessary reforms in electoral institutions, their roles and responsibilities and at the same time in the overall process before the parliamentary elections. However, no major work was done in that regard on time. 
On the other hand, there was no consensus regarding the shortcomings in the election institutions and processes. It was only feasible to suggest reforms when the real issues were identified and agreed upon. There seemed to be great differences in the opinion of the president and the CEO in this regard. Both considered different issues as the top priority. And some of the controversies are still present. On the other hand, Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) has been suffering from lack of authority and at the same time capacity. IEC secretary and spokesman, Gula Jan Abdul Badi Sayyad said on Saturday, February 18 that IEC would send its outline for the holding of Afghanistan’s elections to the government in the next day or two.
He also mentioned that once the first outline about election polling stations was approved, IEC would prepare the voters rolls which they were already working on.
On the other hand, government has said the election schedule would be announced in one month. In fact, there is no clear idea about when the election will be held. Meanwhile, the security and political situations do not seem under control. Therefore, it is very difficult to see that the promises being made by IEC and the government would be fulfilled on time. For Afghanistan it is really vital that the parliamentary election should be held in immediately as it would help it in bringing about some political stability at a time when the country is going through serious security challenges and political instability.