Wolesi Jirga delays voting on electoral reform decree
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament on Saturday postponed voting on a presidential legislative decree regarding composition, authority and responsibilities of the two electoral bodies.
According to Article 79 of the Constitution, the president can issue legislative decrees, except regarding budget and financial matters, when the parliament is on recess. But the decrees need to be approved by the parliament within 30 days of returning from vacation.
Bringing reforms to the electoral regime is key part of the unity government agreement between then presidential candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
President Ghani issued a second legislative decree on electoral reform in March after his first decree was rejected by the Wolesi Jirga.
However, the second degree is yet to be debated at the house despite calls from political parties, civil society groups and election watchdogs to approve the decree in order to pave the ground for electoral reform and the conduct of the long due parliamentary and district council elections.
Speaking at today’s session, lawmaker Sharifa Balkhabi said the house panels in their joint first and second meetings had discussed the decree.
She said some commissions rejected the decree, others proposed recommendations and some approved it, but there was only one controversial case in the third meeting of the commissions.
About the controversial provision in the decree, she said in the decree it had come that the Chief Executive Office should be also consulted on appointment of members of the electoral bodies.
Other lawmakers held different views. Some said the decree should be voted upon and others rejected the idea.
MP Farhad Azimi said if the decree was rejected the people would say the Wolesi Jirga had hijacked the elections and if approved, it was feared the two leaders would divide members of the electoral bodies between them.
Another lawmaker Mohammad Daud Kalkani also said he feared if the decree was approved, government officials would distribute seats on the two commissions and would pave the way for their own people to make it to the parliament.
He claimed: “Reports which have reached us say the parliament seats have been distributed between the president and the CEO.”
MP Gul Badshah Majidi said elections were people’s demand and therefore the decree should not be rejected. He said controversial articles should be discussed before voting on the decree.
Concluding the debate, Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said the house commissions should once again discuss the decree tomorrow and present their proposals to the house in the next meeting.
A few days ago, some political parties and civil society groups had asked the Wolesi Jirga to approve the presidential decree on electoral reform and had warned the country could plunge into a new political crisis if the decree was rejected.
Ibrahimi had also a week ago urged lawmakers to approve the decree in order to pave the ground for the parliamentary and district council elections.
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