Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s commitment to hold timely and transparent elections in the country is under suspicion as opposition and political leaders say that voter registration has not yet started and election laws still await parliamentary approval.
Afghanistan’s independent Election Commission has already announced that polls will be held in early 2014, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) will also withdraw its troops after nearly 12 years of war. However, political leaders say uncertainty regarding the elections still remains in the war-torn country.
Chief of the Afghanistan Peace Movement Shahnawaz Tanai also known as ‘De Afghanistan De Solay Ghorzang’, says elections will be held on time because any delay will be embarrassing for the US and its Nato allies.
However, Tanai was doubtful whether the polls can be fair or transparent. The government has failed to introduce a strong political system and democratic culture in the last 12 years, he said.
“Afghanistan lacks a sound political culture and elections in such a situation will have no credibility when warlords are still strong,” he told The Express Tribune on Friday. Tanai, a former defence minister during the Communist regime of Dr Najibullah, had contested the 2009 presidential elections.
In view of this uncertainty, the Afghan opposition alliances are urging Karzai to peacefully hand over power when his second term formally ends in August next year, as he is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.
Rumours that Karzai is planning to create a post of prime minister for himself in 2014 have set the Afghan and international media buzzing. It has been reported that the president has discussed the issue with the leaders of Afghanistan’s main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, led by Dr Abdullah Abdullah.
Speculations about the possible Karzai-Abdullah deal were mentioned in the Afghan media, following Abdullah’s participation for the first time in a consultative meeting in November with President Karzai and his deputies in Kabul. The meeting regarding the next presidential elections and post-2014 Afghanistan was arranged at the initiative of the president’s office.
It is believed that Vice-President Qasim Fahim is playing a key role in bringing Karzai and the Northern Alliance leadership to an understanding or even a power sharing deal in 2014.
There are also speculations of a possible move to amend the constitution to allow President Karzai to stand for a third term in office, or a possible declaration of emergency over security concerns which will let him remain in power as the withdrawal date for foreign troops approaches.
However, the occurrence of these events seems unlikely as it would be difficult for the incumbent president to back off from his repeated public commitments of not seeking a third term.
It would also be difficult for Karzai to call off the elections as his Western allies have made it clear that their continued support for Afghanistan centres on a peaceful transfer of power through elections in 2014.
Afghan sources in Islamabad are of the view that President Karzai has also started consultations to field one of his close confidantes, who must have ‘religious credentials’ for winning support in the country and Islamic world. Certain quarters believe that Karzai has another option, to choose his brother for the upcoming elections because his own influence would be a key to the success of either his close aide or brother.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2013.