Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Afghanistan: Elections and the Crisis of Governance


Kabul/Brussels, 25 November 2009: Only vigorous constitutional and electoral reforms will prevent Afghanistan from slipping further into instability after Hamid Karzai’s fraudulent re-election.

Afghanistan: Elections and the Crisis of Governance,* the latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the situation in Afghanistan after a deeply flawed presidential electoral process delivered a critical blow to the legitimacy of both the government and the international community. The briefing argues that institutions facing a credibility crisis of such huge proportions cannot defeat the insurgency.

“Karzai’s retaining power under these circumstances has bolstered the impression that the international community is disinterested in or incapable of checking corruption”, says Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group Senior Analyst. “It handed the Taliban a huge public relations victory”.

To stem the decline in public confidence, the international community, particularly the US and the UN, must urgently put in place and vigorously support a number of key measures, including:

• restrictions on the size of the cabinet, barring nominees with demonstrated links to armed groups or criminal activities from joining government;
• the formation of an impartial commission of inquiry to conduct a thorough public review of the 20 August 2009 elections; the National Assembly’s use of its full sanctioning powers against those suspected of abusing their offices to influence the polls; and vigorous pursuit by the attorney general and courts of criminal prosecutions of those involved in flagrant violations of the law;
• consultations among relevant Afghan and international actors to achieve consensus on immediate steps to strengthen the machinery for the 2010 elections;
• convocation of a loya jirga to undertake constitutional reform, including consultations on the role of the Supreme Court; enhancing the independence of the judiciary and legislature; and meaningfully devolving authority and resources to provincial and district levels; and
• resignation of UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) chief and UN Special Representative of Secretary-General Kai Eide, since he has lost the faith of many on his staff and the necessary trust of many parts of the Afghan polity, accompanied by a thorough re-evaluation of the advisory role of UNAMA’s Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) program view to rebuild public support for Afghanistan’s electoral institutions and processes.
“The international community has too often acted as if the election cycle was merely a box to tick, and we’ve all seen where that has led”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Impending decisions about military strategies, troop levels and state-building concepts may mean little if we do not cauterise the damage these fraudulent elections inflicted on Afghanistan. Only thorough reform can do that”.

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