Time not ripe for changing electoral system: Experts
KABUL (Pajhwok): Some political analysts view a political parties-based election system as a positive move that is difficult to implement, but others support the proportional representation regime.
Changing the current election system to a party-based regime with the creation of constituencies is one of the suggestions that the Election Reform Commission (ERC) has received from the general public.
On Aug 30, the ERC shared its suggestions on reforms in the electoral system with the government. Conversion of the single non-transferable vote (SNTV) system into one that could pave the way for political parties to come to parliament and take more effective part in lawmaking and nation-building was suggested by the panel.
Currently the SNTV system is being practiced in Afghanistan. The system is used in multi-member constituency elections. Under SNTV, each voter casts one vote for a candidate. Unlike the first-past-the-post (FPTP) arrangement, it envisages more than one seat being filled in each electoral district.
Some of the major suggestions include registration of voters, making the election bodies accountable, the presence of two foreigners in the Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC), reservation of one seat in the Wolesi Jirga for the Hindu minority, identification and shrinking of constituencies.
Other proposals include distribution of the computerised identity cards, 25 percent of seats for women on provincial and district councils and invalidation of the current voter cards.
The commission suggested allocation of 1/3 of Wolesi Jirga seats to the political parties, a suggestion which could be implemented after necessary legislation and other legal procedures.
Additionally, the ERC suggested political parties should dispatch open lists of their candidates to the commission for the coming Wolesi Jirga elections. The creation of constituencies will be based on population.
It said defined political constituencies would be open for all political parties’ members for contesting the election and the one who grabbed 70 percent of total ballots would be eligible for contesting the mainstream election.
ERC allocated the lower house 250 seats by giving 1/3 of berths to political parties, 65 to independent members, 10 to Kochis, including three women, and one to the Hindu minority.
Shahla Farid, teacher at the Law and Political Science Department of Kabul University, believed execution of the ERC suggestion in the current circumstances would be injustice to the people of Afghanistan.
“I don’t favour the entry of political parties into the system because it was not an appropriate time for them and they need to grow more mature,” she commented. But ERC insists the suggestion will help ensure fair parliamentary polls.
Shahla explained the president could issue an ordinance implementing the proposal only when the lower house was on a recess. In the presence the Wolesi Jirga, she noted, the president could not promulgate any ordinance.
Article 79 of the constitution says: “During the recess of the House of Representatives, the government shall, in case of an immediate need, issue legislative decrees, except in matters related to budget and financial affairs.
Legislative decrees, after their endorsement by the president, will acquire the force of law and will be presented to the National Assembly within 30 days of convening its first session. If rejected by the National Assembly, they become void,
Shahla alleged the Presidential Palace and the Wolesi Jirga had repeatedly violated the constitution. The president may issue a legislative decree for execution of the suggestions.
Based on Article 109, she pointed out, the parliament cannot provide suggestions for amendments to the constitution. On the other hand, the legislative right of the Wolesi Jirga has become questionable with expiry of its constitutional tenure.
Under Article 83, Wolesi Jirga elections should have taken place in May, and new lawmakers should have started work on June 22. But the elections did not happen and the Presidential Palace announced on June 19 that due to technical and economic problems, the polls had been delayed and the parliament would continue its work until the new election results were announced.
Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) head Mohammad Naeem Ayubzada also called proposal problematic. “We want changes in the election system to help political parties become major actors,” he said, adding it was not possible to translate the suggestions into action in a short time.
But Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) head Mohammad Yousuf Rashid thinks changing the system from SNTV to a parallel voting arrangement would be better. The draft proposals could not be enforced if the Wolesi Jirga election are held next year.
Afghanistan Democracy Watch (ADW) chief Zakria Barakzai, sharing Rashid’s view, said it would create problem for voters who would find it hard to decide on who they should support among thousands of political leaders.The Ministry of Justice has registered 67 political parties.
However, two ERC members Shah Mahmoud Miakhel and Kawoon Kakar boycotted ERC meetings in protest over some of the panel’s suggestions. They argue the commission’sproposals need more discussions and should be reviewed.
The draft is not executable in the next two years and that would let lawmakers continue their work for another two years. Suggestions for reforms should be gradually implemented, not immediately, because even a flawless system could not yield perfect result, they maintain.
In a letter, the two ERC members said: “At first, the ground for gradual improvement of political parties should be paved. It will unjust giving privileges to some warlords, who have forcibly taken control of the entire nation.”
They acknowledge some votes may be wasted in the Majority Election System, but people’s participation counts more than anything else.The ERC draft is implementable in countries with strong economies and political systems, they continue, suggesting first past the post instead of a majority regime.
Meanwhile, ERC deputy head Siddiqullah Tawhidi said the draft was implementable and designed to help political parties out of the control of tribal and regional groups and pave the ground for coalitionsamong different parties.
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