Tensions are high over the results of parliamentary elections in Afghansitan (Photo: ToloNews)
On October 6, I went against the current and showed optimism in the parliamentary elections. I thought that in the given context, the voting process had not been as bad as certain news outlets made it to be. But I highlighted that the main challenge lay in how claims of fraud are dealt with. I wrote:
The next stage, of how the fraud is dealt with, is incredibly critical.
For a second time in a year, ordinary afghans have braved the threats to cast their votes. They have played their part in this flirt with democracy, but if serious action is not taken to ensure them that their voices matter, they will lose hope. The future of the democratic system in Afghanistan will be in peril.
It is crucial that this time around the Afghan leadership really crack down on those who were involved in the fraud. For the sake of saving any hopes of democracy, the government and the leaders need to forget about their pride. They need to man up and accept that there were enormous shortcomings. Rather than questioning its extent and blaming others, they need to take action: punish those who committed systematic fraud, ban them from participating in politics, and perhaps even redo the voting process in certain districts with tighter security and anti-corruption measures. The people need to know that democracy is not corrupt and rotten, but individuals are. If this message is not clearly given to the Afghan people, any hopes of a democracy in the future will be childish.
Well, it turns out that I was overly optimistic. The post-voting process has been a complete shit-show. It is developing into a constitutional crisis.
The problem began with the province of Ghazni, where contenders from the ethnic minority Hazara won all the seats. The Pashtoon candidates claimed this was unfair for the fact that in most districts polling stations remained close due to Taliban threat. They claimed that a minority group could not represent the entire Province of Ghazni. President Karzai publicly sympathized with them, asking the Election Commission to find a legal solution that ensures “national unity.” Over this and many other, a massive heated and public argument has erupted between the Attorney General’s Office, the Election Commission and and the Electoral Complaints Commission .
The Attorney General’s office released arrest warrants for several members of these commissions and asked the Supreme Court to declare the election results as void. The Election Commission, in return, has questioned the legality of the Attorney General’s involvement in this matter. They claim that no authority can overrule their final announcement of the results.
Initially, the Election Commission remained calm and calculated in its response to the Attorney General’s calls. More recently, however, they have responded in very bold words. Fazel Ahmad Manawi, head of the commission, in his recent press conference accused the Attorney General’s office of “bullying that can lead to instability in the country.” He scorned the charge sheet sent to the supreme court which recommends the highest form of punishment [execution] for the 14 members accused.
Where will the legal argument lead? Does the Attorney General’s Office have the authority to question the results of the elections? Many believe it does. The AG has presented criminal cases of fraud against top election officials as well as winning candidates. This seems within their bounds of authority. But Mr. Manawi, himself a former Supreme Court Justice, has challenged their authority on the grounds that the election law only gives the Election Complaints Commission the authority to call the results void. Him being a prominent legal scholar and a former justice, one is tempted to believe that he,too, has strong reasons for his position. How will this public argument end? Hard to predict, but expect it to get eve more messier.
During all this, President Karzai has remained very quiet. Yes, he did sympathize with the losing Ghazni candidates, but since then he has said nothing bold. Waheed Omer, his spokesman, has insisted that the President will take no measures against the constitution. Yesterday, he declared more precisely that the President does not have the authority to call the results void. But is the Attorney General’s office doing his work for him? It seems so. The Attorney General has almost always acted in line with the President’s wishes. In this case, too, the President seems like he is raising his concern through the AG while maintaining an uninvolved public image.