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A change in government

Masood SaifullahJuly 15, 2014

A deal brokered by US State Secretary John Kerry aimed at ending the electoral stalemate in Afghanistan may bring about key changes in the South Asian nation's governmental system.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) speaks next to Afghan presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah (L) during a news conference in Kabul July 12, 2014.
Image: Reuters

For the first time since the controversial June 14 runoff election, the two Afghan presidential candidates were seen side by side at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Afghanistan representative, Jan Kubis. Kerry, who had come to Kabul to end an electoral dispute, announced that both former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani had agreed to audit all the ballots in the second round of voting and form a "national unity government."

The agreement was brokered by Kerry after 48 hours of intensive negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and both presidential contenders. Preliminary results of the second-round vote put Ghani in the lead but Abdullah, who won the first round of the polls, has rejected the count and his aides threatened to set up an alternative administration. The US had warned Afghan candidates that any attempt to seize power by extra-legal means would cost the country international aid and military support.

Afghanistan Kabul Loja Dschirga
"Loya Jirga" - a mass meeting of the Afghan elders, political and tribal leaders - is required to change the constitutionImage: DW/H. Sirat

Different interpretations

The precise details of the agreement are not known yet, but Abdullah's second vice president, Mohammad Mohaqiq, said in a recent interview that the losing candidate would have an executive role in the incoming government, which will pave the way for changing the governmental system in Afghanistan. What exactly the role of the executive chief will be, however, remains unclear.

Speaking to DW, Abdullah Abdullah's spokesman, Fazel Sancharaki added that the holder of the position will be involved in government decisions. He also pointed out that a change in the government system would require a constitutional amendment to be decided by a "Loya Jirga" or Grand Assembly - a mass meeting of the Afghan elders, political and tribal leaders.

Sancharaki explains that there are ongoing talks about calling a constitutional Loya Jirga two years into the new government and transforming the current structure into a presidential system with a prime minister.

Hamidullah Faroqi, a spokesman for Ashraf Ghani's team, said the national unity government is meant to represent all Afghans. "Our constitution doesn't foresee the position of prime minister in our governmental system, so the winning team cannot make such a promise," he told DW. "The president can only call for a constitutional Loya Jirga and if the people decide to have a prime minister, then the president can go ahead with the decision," Faroqi pointed out.

Afghanistan's constitution states that the president should have two vice presidents and govern the country under a presidential system. Both candidates have pledged to amend the Afghan constitution, with Abdullah supporting change and Ghani wanting to add a third vice president to include more ethnicities in his government.

Crisis avoided

When Afghanistan's electoral governing body, the Independent Election Commission (IEC), announced the preliminary results Abdullah threatened to form a parallel government, plunging the country into a political deadlock. The IEC was criticized for its management of the situation.

Yonus Fakur, a member of the NGO "National Strategy Council" believes Kerry's deal has ended Afghanistan's political crisis, but warns the deal can only work if both sides sign agreements thoroughly detailing the nature of their cooperation.

Afghan security officials inspect the site of a bomb blast that targeted private Afghan army vehicle, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 12 July 2014.
An electoral decision is essential for US and NATO troops to remain in AfghanistanImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"If the deal is just a temporary measure and there is no agreement on the details, then we might face another crisis in the near future. But if this is fulfilled, I think the latest agreement can help provide stability to Afghanistan's future government," Fakur said.

Fakur believes that the failure to reach an agreement would have had serious consequences for Afghanistan. He adds that while it might be challenging for the members of the two rival teams to work together, the failure to do so would have been disastrous for the war-torn country.