Initial trends spell trouble for Karzai in Afghan polls

Pakistan Tribune

Thursday September 29, 2005 (1546 PST)

KABUL: Initial vote count trends in Afghanistan’s parliamentary polls indicate trouble for incumbent President Hamid Karzai once the house is constituted in December.

At the end of the first week of the painfully slow progress of counting – hardly 20 percent of votes have been counted so far – most of Karzai’s opponents are leading the tally, spelling trouble for the US-backed president.

To run the administration smoothly, Karzai has to have a majority of parliament members backing him because, according to Afghanistan’s new constitution, all his decisions and decrees have to be ratified by parliament.

Even the appointment of cabinet ministers and judges is to be approved by parliament.

The trends show that in Kabul province, which has the maximum of 33 seats including nine reserved for women, three of Karzai’s former colleagues in his interim cabinet are leading the field.

They are former vice president and Hazara Shia leader, Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, ethnic Tajik giant Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, who was a close associate of legendary fighter Ahmad Shah Masoud, and another former Karzai minister, French-educated Ramazan Bashardost, who resigned from the cabinet after alleging that many foreign NGOs were indulging in extravagance and eating into aid funds.

Only a couple of candidates owing some allegiance to Karzai may get elected from Kabul province.

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a very powerful warlord and Islamist jehadi leader often accused of human rights abuses during the civil war among jehadi groups around Kabul in the 1990s, is at the fourth place.

Reports from the provinces also reveal that several former mujahideen commanders, many of whom still maintain armed groups, and political figures from jehadi factions are leading the tally.

Putting it all together, in case they reach parliament, they are likely to make things difficult for Karzai and put a spanner in his reforms programme, drawing Afghanistan again into the conservative mode.

Karzai has not formed any political party of his own. He enforced party-less parliamentary elections and introduced the multiple constituency system, hoping it would create confusion among his adversaries and give him an opportunity to manipulate the post-election scenario.

This had made it rather cumbersome for his adversaries to manage getting a maximum of their followers elected to parliament.

Though most candidates owe allegiance to about 80 registered political parties, they had to contest as independents. This is likely to result in polarisation immediately after the results are known and large-scale horse trading is expected to follow.

Most jehadi leaders are unhappy with Karzai and his US backers, saying that they have been largely left out of the spoil system after the rout of the Taliban.

Powerful warlord and Shia Hazara leader Sardar Sayeedi told IANS in Mazar-e-Sharif: “We fought against the Russians and suffered greatly. But when we see that the very people (Pushtuns) who ruined the country are again gaining power, sidelining those who made sacrifices, we feel cheated and we will not allow this to continue after we get our people into the parliament.”

Alam Khan Azad, another warlord and prominent leader of the Northern Alliance of Arab origin, said: “Leaders like Mohaqiq (Hazara), Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Uzbek) and Marshal Fahim (Tajik), who drove away the Russians and the Taliban, are out of the government and sulking while those who ran away from the country (Karzai and his ministers) are enjoying and ruling with the support of foreigners.

“This is not going to be the case once we are in the parliament,” Azad declared.

All those nursing grudges at being left out are likely to gang up together to give a tough time to Karzai in the new parliament.

The UN-constituted Joint Election Management Body said the counting is likely to be concluded by Oct 4 and two weeks will be given to handle complaints. The final results will be declared Oct 22.

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