The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened the meeting of the sixth year of the 16th round of the Afghan Parliament after the winter vocations last week.
The background and the power of the Parliament in Afghanistan, the current conflict and non-coordination between the government and the Afghan Parliament, its activities in the past year and challenges ahead are the issues which we have tried to analyze here.
The background of the Afghan Parliament
The first Parliament in Afghanistan (named the “state council”) was formed under the umbrella of the first Afghan constitution which was written during Amanullah Khan’s reign in 1302 (1923), later at the time of the Nader Khan in 1307 (1930) its name was changed to “Parliament” and was unicameral with 38 members.
In 1309 (1930) the Afghan Parliament became bicameral and the two houses were called (Wolesi Jirga) (Lower House) and (Meshrano Jirga) (the Upper House). This Parliament began its work in 1310 (1931). Until 1965 the members of the both houses were being appointed by the government but in 1343 (1965) and after the new constitution was approved, the Parliament was considered to have specific powers and also the members of the 12th round of the lower house were elected by the people.
After the “Democracy Decade” (1963-1973); until the collapse of the Taliban regime no such election was held; but in 2001 when the US attacked Afghanistan and the Afghan interim government was formed; the new constitution was approved for the country and based on the new constitution Parliamentary election was held in 2005 and 249 members were elected to Wolesi Jirga.
In 2010, once again the Parliamentary election was held to elect new members to the Parliament and the next election was expected to be held in 2015 but due to the various issues the election is postponed to the upcoming year.
The powers of the Parliament
According to the Afghan constitution the Afghan Parliament have two houses and both have specific powers in specific fields. Ratification, modification and abrogation of the laws, approval of the government’s development programs, the approval of the state budget, and ratification or abrogation of the international treaties are the common authorities of both houses of the Afghan Parliament.
Decision about summoning ministers, the state budget and development programs, and approval or rejection of the appointments are the special authorities of the “Wolesi Jirga”. Parliament and particularly “Wolesi Jirga” have vast legislative authority and in this regard the executive branch can only propose bills.
The Parliament-government relations
Based on the Afghan constitution all three branches of the state must supervise one another. Thus the Parliament oversees the actions of the executive branch. In the past Afghan constitutions particularly in the constitution of 1964, the observation was mentioned as the Parliament’s duty. One of the reasons why the government in the “Democracy Decade” was successfully functioning was the proper relations between the government and the Parliament; as at the time of the Prime Minister Mosa Shafiq there were proper relation between the government and the Parliament.
In the first term of Karzai’s presidency there were better relations between the government and the Parliament but in the second term of his presidency these relations were deteriorated and the Parliament repeatedly rejected the cabinet members who were introduce to the Parliament to be approved as ministers; but still there were coordination between the government and the Parliament. But currently the coordination between the government and the Parliament is at its low levels and the relation between them is highly deteriorated.
Wolesi Jirga in 1394
Wolesi Jirga did not have any remarkable achievement last year. The achievement of “Wolesi Jirga” which was presented at the final meeting of 1394 were as follows: holding 51 general sessions, 2 impeachment sessions, 15 summon sessions, 3 hearing sessions and 30 ordinary sessions, passing 39 ratifications and 10 bills, approving 9 agreements, abrogating 7 legislative decrees and approving the 1395 annual budget .
Setting the salaries of the governmental officials, approval of the members of the judicial branch and passing the telecommunication tax bill were also in the list of the house’s activities.
Wolesi Jirga also approved the bilateral security agreement with United Arab Emirates, the military cooperation agreement between the Afghan Ministry of Defense and China, and the agreement of the Islamic Cooperation Organization’s convention.
The problems faced by Wolesi Jirga in 1394
Wolesi Jirga faced various problems last year, the most significant of which are as follows:
Legislation: legislation is one of the three significant duties of the Parliament. According to the Article 90 of the Afghan constitution, the Parliament has the authority to ratify, modify or abrogate the government’s bills and legislative decrees. In 2015, Wolesi Jirga has not taken any innovative step in the legislation area and has only reacted against the government’s bills. Thus from all its authorities in the legislation area Wolesi Jirga has only implemented its authority to ratify or abrogate the bills.
Monitoring the government: in the area of overseeing the government, the Parliament has acted very poorly. There were accusations that instead of tackling corruption; some Parliament members have used their authority of observing the government for individual and tribal interests.
Summoning ministers: in the past year, differences between the National Unity Government Officials also divided Wolesi Jirga into two parts and the summon meetings were also disorganized.
Absentees: there are now 240 members in the Parliament and yet only 68 to 76 of them were present in daily meetings of the Parliament. The number of present members in the Parliament is increased only in significant meetings, such as introducing the ministers or impeachment meetings; meeting of approving the budget.
The problems of the people: based on law, the Parliament members have two time vacations; one in summer and the other in winter. By taking leverage of this, they should listen to the problems of their clients but people complain that the Parliamentarians do not hear their problems.
The challenges ahead
The Parliament has begun its sixth year, and it will function for several months until the Parliamentary election, which is expected to be held on 15 October 2016. The main problems that the Parliament has to deal with are as follows:
Legitimacy: after the Afghan president extended the Afghan Parliament’s term beyond 22 June 2015, legal experts called this act as in violation of the Afghan constitution and illegitimate. Thus the Afghan Parliament was dealing with the challenge of legality and this is a challenge that the Parliament will be facing next year and therefor the Afghan Parliament have to struggle with the issue of legality and should make efforts to gain the trust of the Afghan elites.
Electoral law: the electoral law is expected to be reformed before the Parliamentary elections and the reforms would not be brought without the consensus of the Parliament; thus to bring reforms in the electoral law will be the main challenge for both the Afghan government and the Afghan Parliament because on one hand the government cannot reform electoral law without the agreement of the Parliament and on the other hand it does not want the Parliamentary elections to be held without electoral reforms.
Disputes between government and the Parliament: beside other challenges, the Parliament will face the issue of deteriorated relation with the government.
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