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A Snapshot of the Week: Has Ghani consolidated his extended presidential term?

On 20 Might, the Council of Presidential Candidates referred to as a press conference and warned that if President Ghani didn’t step down on 22 Might, crisis and instability would befall the country. The Council has proposed a caretaker government to steer elections, reconciliation process and transfer of power to the subsequent elected president. Photograph: Basic Murad Ali Murad’s Facebook Page

Kabul has been on heightened safety alert, as the presidential term of President Ashraf Ghani approached its constitutional end on 1 Jawza (22 Might 2019). The authorities responded to calls by the political opposition for Ghani to step down in favour of a caretaker government and threats that protestors would take to the streets by growing safety forces in the capital – actually – overnight. Containers have been put in place, in case they have been wanted to dam roads, and entry to the palace was restricted, leading to large visitors jams and public exasperation. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili and Jelena Bjelica (with input from Martine van Bijlert) unpack the events that led to this week’s political and visitors tensions in Kabul, lay out the contours of the proposed caretaker government, and discover whether Ghani has successfully secured an extension of his tenure until the next election scheduled for 28 September 2019 takes place.

A important date results in a quick closure of the metropolis

On 20 Might 2019, a gaggle of presidential hopefuls, who call themselves the Council of Presidential Candidates, referred to as a press conference and warned that, if President Ashraf Ghani did not step down on 22 Might – the day his time period formally ended – the nation would face a disaster and the president should face the consequences (media report right here). The council was shaped by 11 out of the 18 presidential runners in April 2019 in response to the delay in the presidential elections and what they saw as the unconstitutional extension of Ghani’s presidential time period (see AAN analysis right here) following a Supreme Courtroom ruling that President Ashraf Ghani and his vice-presidents might proceed to serve till the election of a brand new president.

In response to the perceived menace of potential mass demonstrations, Afghan safety forces began growing their presence all through Kabul from Monday night time (20 Might) onwards. Throughout the night time between Tuesday and Wednesday, they positioned giant vans and containers at strategic positions, so they might block roads in the city, if essential. In the early morning of 22 Might 2019, the security forces also closed off sure roads leading to the presidential palace. This induced heavy visitors congestion in the capital and compelled many residents to stroll long distances. Samiullah, one resident of Kabul, advised media that “all the oppressions and troubles befall the poor residents of Kabul.” He stated he had needed to stroll from close to the Ministry of Commerce, close to Darul Aman, all the solution to Shahr-e Now as a result of the roads have been closed. Munir Ahmad, another Kabul resident, advised media “there are trailer trucks stationed everywhere. The roads are closed.” AAN employees members, as they came to the office in the morning, additionally noticed containers placed at many crucial T-junctions in Kart-e Parwan, presumably in preparation for closing these roads if protests erupted. The spokesman for the Ministry of Inside, Nusrat Rahimi, later throughout the day, confirmed this had certainly been completed in preparation for attainable demonstrations.

Not surprisingly, discontent with the blockage of the city by the security forces was high and the concern extensively mentioned on social media. Some complained that that they had confronted violence by the safety forces. Others stated that they had not been capable of arrive on time for essential appointments. The road closures have been also closely criticised by the opposition. The Council of Presidential Candidates issued a press release (see here) damning the street closures, by what they referred to as “the illegitimate leaders of the government.” Making an attempt to play on individuals’s emotions, they stated “in this holy month of Ramadan and in the hot weather, the dreadful and frantic environment of the capital and the heavy presence of military forces in the city has led to disquiet and harassment of the citizens and is an especial cause of concern for the residents of the capital.” Individually, Enayatullah Hafiz, one of the presidential candidates, wrote on his Facebook web page that, regardless that that they had “not yet taken any practical action to overthrow the two-headed government, the government is afraid of its own shadow and has blocked the squares leading to the palace.”

Former Balkh governor and government chief of Jamiat-e Islami, Atta Muhamamad Nur, who backs Atmar’s presidential ticket, launched a video message on the similar day (see right here), “Today, the National Unity Government no longer exists.” He argued that it had not derived its legitimacy from the regulation, but from a political deal between the two sides (the two 2014 presidential candidates) and help by the international group and that this legitimacy not existed. He referred to as on “all countrymen, supporters of the team, law-abiding people and those who like a lawful society to make all their preparations, starting today with coordination and consultation under the roof to pouring into the streets and after Eid, blocking highways and shutting down the ministries and [the area] around the presidential palace, as well as the provinces if needed.” He referred to as on them “to be firm in their decision [to form] a big national movement until this imposed and dictatorial government collapses.” They did not need to hassle the individuals throughout the month of Ramadan, he stated, however would make their transfer in the days thereafter.

After a number of hours of the roads being closed, the Kabul police realised there can be no demonstrations and, to keep away from additional public anger, directed they be reopened (media report right here). A spokesman for Kabul Police Chief Ferdaws Faramarz advised the media that each one roads and squares had been reopened to visitors on the course of Kabul chief of police (media report right here).

Opposition demands for a caretaker authorities

Political strain had been mounting in the capital since the first delay to the presidential elections was announced on 30 December 2018 when the date was moved from 20 April to 20 July 2019. (1) That delay sparked a debate about what to do with the finish of the presidential term. This intensified when, on 20 March 2019, the Unbiased Election Fee (IEC) announced a second delay, shifting the elections from 20 July to 28 September 2019.

On 15 April 2019, 11 out of the 18 presidential tickets (read AAN’s previous report about the 18 presidential tickets here) united round a call for the government to be dissolved after 22 Might, its limit underneath the constitution. (2) They stated they might finalise an alternate plan for the authorities, which they might announce in a press conference, “in light of the laws and in accordance with lawyers, politicians, civil society and other segments of society at the very earliest possibility.” It then took them virtually a month to provide you with a proposal for a caretaker authorities to exchange the National Unity Authorities. By that point, 22 Might was only ten days away.

The Council of Presidential Candidates’ assertion proposing a “Caretaker Government within the Framework of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” (see Dari text right here) introduced two options:

  • If the current president withdrew his candidacy for the presidency, he might continue to function head of the caretaker government, ranging from 1 Jawza 1398 (22 Might 2019), without going by means of another authorized mechanism and without any disruption, till the end of the caretaking period. They stated this feature would also apply to the current vice-presidents in the event that they withdrew from the electoral race. (Second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh is operating as the second running-mate of President Ashraf Ghani and First Vice-President Dostum has put his chief of employees, Enayatullah Babar Farahmand, on Chief Government Abdullah’s ticket as his first running-mate. Dostum backs Abdullah. It isn’t clear whether or not, on this state of affairs, the Council would demand Dostum additionally both withdrew his help for Abdullah, or step down as vice-president.)
  • If the first choice did not materialise, they stated a “bigger political consensus” ought to choose the caretaker president and vice-presidents. Beneath this feature, presidential candidates and personalities who have been legally-qualified, unbiased, committed and with nationwide wejahat (popularity, reputation), and who had been introduced by political parties and civil organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice, might grow to be candidates for the publish of head of the caretaker government. Any presidential candidate who needed to run for the caretaker position ought to withdraw their candidacy for the presidency.

If the second choice materialised, candidates for a caretaker chief can be introduced to the ‘big political consensus’ for a vote. They might current their proposals, after which the candidate who acquired the majority of the votes can be sworn in, in accordance with article 63 of the constitution (which describes the oath of workplace). The identical technique would apply to candidates for the positions of caretaker vice-president. (The proposal, nevertheless, doesn’t specify whether or not the ‘big political consensus’ should vote for a ticket or for individuals who’re candidates for the three posts).

In a more detailed written proposal (AAN has obtained a replica), the council defined the ‘big political consensus’ as being composed of: presidential candidates; leaders of political events registered with the Ministry of Justice; the head of the Ulema Council of Afghanistan; the speaker and administrative board of the Wolesi Jirga; the chair and administrative board of the Meshrano Jirga; the head of the Afghanistan Unbiased Human Rights Fee; the head of the Unbiased Fee for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution; a consultant of the civil society; the head of Afghanistan Legal professionals’ Association and; the head of the Afghan Ladies’s Community.

The council listed three primary tasks, which they name led “three big national programmes” for the caretaker government to manage: 1) clear, truthful and credible elections 2) a national reconciliation process and 3) the transfer of power to the subsequent elected authorities.

Additionally they described eight rules for the caretaker government:

  • The caretaker leader must be an unbiased character with national wejahat (popularity and popularity) and a commitment to effectively fulfilling their duties.
  • S/he should fulfil circumstances just like (hamgun) these enshrined in article 62 of the structure for the presidential candidates (ie be a citizen of Afghanistan, Muslim, born of Afghan mother and father and never be a citizen of another nation; not be less than 40 years previous on the day of candidacy; not have been convicted of crimes towards humanity, a felony act or have been deprived of his/her civil rights by a courtroom and; have not been elected as president for two terms). The final situation would disqualify former president Hamed Karzai and his vice-president Karim Khalili from operating for the caretaker positions.
  • The caretaker head of authorities must be chosen based mostly on a democratic vote and majority votes in line with the circumstances and choices described in the Council’s proposal.
  • The caretaker head of authorities should not be a presidential candidate; if presidential candidates run for the submit of caretaker head of government, they need to withdraw their candidacy for the presidency earlier than operating for the caretaker publish, as a way to guarantee legal fairness with other citizens.
  • The caretaker head of government shouldn’t fulfil some other massive main obligation, ie is the same as those of a minister or judicial officer at the excessive ranges in the authorities, for a interval of time (until the subsequent elected government is elected.)
  • The tenure of the caretaker authorities is till the 6 Mizan 1398 (28 September 2019) elections have taken place and last outcomes been announced. The caretaker head of government ought to then hand energy to the [new] elected president.
  • The efficiency of the caretaker head of government must be overseen by the Council of Presidential Candidates (which might be renamed as the Shura-ye Maslahat-e Melli (Council of Nationwide Exigency) after 1 Jawza 1398 or 22 Might 2019).
  • The authorities of the caretaker head of government must be laid out in accordance with article 67 of the structure. (It describes a state of affairs during which the president resigns, or is impeached, or dies, or develops an incurable illness impeding the performance of his/her duties, and the first vice-president assumes the authorities and duties of the president. In this case, the first vice-president governs in an appearing capacity and can’t amend the constitution, dismiss ministers or name a referendum.)

Building strain and reaching out

On 19 Might 2019, the Council of Presidential Candidates introduced their proposals to the diplomatic group. The gathering was held in Ahmad Wali Massud’s home and was attended by representatives from the US, UK, France, Italy, Russia, Pakistan, Japan, the Netherlands, India and Tajikistan, and UNAMA, NATO and the Agha Khan Foundation. Ahmad Wali Massud, one of the presidential candidates, and Jawid Ludin, a member of the technical staff of the Council of Presidential Candidates, introduced the proposal (a hyperlink to the presentation in English is right here).

Wali Massud and Ludin argued that the formation of the National Unity Government had been based mostly on an agreement “signed by two individuals under international auspices” which, they stated, had long been breached at its core and was not legitimate. They stated that, for example, on the basis of article two of the Joint Assertion of eight August 2014 and its attachments, a Loya Jirga ought to have been convened after two years to debate amendments to the structure and the creation of a publish of government prime minister. Yet, no Loya Jirga had been held, and similarly, many different commitments on this settlement had not been carried out.

They described a three-pronged strategy if the government have been to proceed post-22 Might:

  • Advocacy: if the government continued to serve after 22 Might, they might work together to advocate for the government to step down and permit the formation of a non-partisan caretaker authorities;
  • Strain: they might reach out to the whole political spectrum of the nation to construct a grand political consensus in help of their demands and use this political consensus to apply continued strain on the government;
  • Protest: as a final resort and will the president proceed to ignore their calls for and his constitutional obligation to make sure a degree enjoying subject for the presidential elections, they might interact in peaceful protests and, if vital, actions of civil disobedience. (three)

At a press conference the following day – which was two days before the constitutional end of the presidential term – the Council of Presidential Candidates reiterated the need for the president to step down on 22 Might. Former national safety adviser and presidential hopeful Hanif Atmar stated that, if Ghani continued to “violate the constitution, abuse the system, pressure the Supreme Court to provide opinion and pressure and abuse the security and defence forces, instability was inevitable.”

In response to this, presidential spokesman Harun Chakhansuri wrote on his Fb web page that “the only authority to interpret the constitution is the Supreme Court. [A]ny so-called caretaker or interim government is against the constitution and the system.” (four) Earlier, on 20 Might, Vice-President Danesh’s legal board had revealed an in depth analysis of the authorized foundations of the continuation of the National Unity Authorities on the Day by day Afghanistan-e Ma website, which he owns. He had also revealed a commentary about the caretaker authorities proposal on 16 Might. His arguments have been mainly consistent with the 2009 and 2019 rulings of the Supreme Courtroom, in addition to the 2014 authorized opinion by the Unbiased Fee for Overseeing the Implementation of the Structure (ICOIC) (see AAN’s analysis of them right here). His media workplace also re-posted the authorized opinion of the ICOIC from the 2014.

What is going to occur now that President Ghani’s term has expired?

The hasty and what many Kabulis perceived as heavy-handed security measures in the morning of 22 Might showed that the demands and warnings of the opposition have rattled the authorities, as did the menace of public unrest. In the previous couple of years, Kabul has seen several mass protests, including one the place demonstrators virtually managed to breach the presidential palace perimeter. So, it was clear the government didn’t need to take any risks. President Ghani must also feel weak and not sure of this help in the face not only of sustained criticism however a peace process between the US and the Taleban that has effectively sidelined him.

The federal government should have been relieved to seek out, in the early afternoon of Wednesday 22 Might 2019, that there have been no indications of mass protests towards him staying in workplace. The opposition should have realised, additionally, that it might be troublesome to mobilise individuals at brief discover and through Ramadan. This has given the government some reprieve.

The Council has indicated that they intend to launch their protests after Eid (which can in all probability fall on 4 or 5 June 2019). Their plans embrace asking all candidates and events to deliver 200 dedicated protestors to pitch tents at the metropolis’s most important junctures, probably closing off the metropolis’s roads. This, in itself, wouldn’t be troublesome to organise and could, probably, convey the city to a halt. But with out broad help for his or her calls for, it is probably solely to end in anger and irritation in the direction of both the authorities and its political challengers.

In phrases of substance, the caretaker government proposal, set forth by the presidential candidates, does not seem convincing enough for the complete political class to coalesce around. It’s also arduous to imagine President Ghani subscribing to both of the choices (ie withdrawing from the presidential race beneath the first choice to steer the caretaker government, or, beneath the second choice, stepping down from the presidency to be able to run as a presidential candidate).

Chief Government Abdullah’s presidential ticket, which isn’t part of the Council of Presidential Candidates, issued a couched statement on 23 Might. The statement, on the one hand, mildly criticised the government for not following the regulation and not proscribing its power after its term ran out, however, on the other, referred to as on the political events and presidential candidates “to enter into talks and not allow disagreements to affect the stability and security of the country negatively.” It additionally referred to as on them to search for solutions that would “dispel the concerns and pave the way for fair, transparent and credible elections”. (5) Abdullah thus appears to tilt in the direction of a center ground – the continuation of the Nationwide Unity Authorities, albeit with limited powers.

Up to now, the Council of Presidential Candidates has not appeared capable of energise the wider inhabitants for their trigger. Subsequently, the authorities might hope to have the ability to sit this out. Even so, its place is turning into ever more precarious. The coming two weeks, till Eid and beyond, are more likely to be crammed with political exercise; those with robust pursuits in the consequence of the present wrangle try to garner help for his or her positions, whereas many others shall be on the lookout for ways to attempt to forestall a deepening of the current disaster.

Edited by Martine van Bijlert

(1) Based on article 61 of the structure, the presidential time period expires on 1 Jawza of the fifth yr following elections (22 Might 2019, in the case of the current president) and in addition that elections for a new president must be held within 30 to 60 days earlier than the end of the presidential term. This means the presidential elections should have been held between 22 March and 22 April 2019 to permit the election of a new president by 22 Might.

(2) The candidates have been: Ahmad Wali Massud, Rahmatullah Nabil, Enayatullah Hafiz, Ghulam Faruq Nejrabi, Faramarz Tamana, Muhammad Ibrahim Alekozai, Muhammad Hakim Tursan, Muhammad Hanif Atmar, Muhmmad Shahab Hakimi, Nur Rahman Liwal and Nurul Haq Olomi.

(three) The Council additionally referred to as for the ‘international community’ to watch (“to remain engaged in this process and closely observe the legal and political impasse”) and help (“for the integrity of the electoral process”) and made a number of detailed proposals to right away curtail the government’s powers with regard to appointments and dismissals, entry to state assets and the integrity of the election.

(4) Chakhansuri, in his Facebook publish, responded to criticism of the postponement of the elections by citing article four of the electoral regulation. It says that, if elections are postponed or suspended, members of the elected bodies should continue to serve of their positions till new elections are held and results introduced. He also responded to a video of President Ghani from 2009 that had been circulated on social media in the run-up to 22 Might by which Ghani criticised then President Karzai for “sleeping behind the steering wheel” and thus delaying the elections. In the video, Ghani argued that the constitution was clear about the end of the presidential time period. Chakhansuri stated in his defence that the remarks had been made earlier than the Supreme Courtroom had issued its opinion in help of the delay of the 2009 elections and that President Ghani had respected the Supreme Courtroom’s choice.

(5) In phrases of its criticism, the assertion by Abdullah’s ticket stated, “The constitution of Afghanistan has full clarity about the election cycle and the end of the presidential term” and that the president’s powers, together with in dismissal and appointments and use of government assets, ought to have been restricted from “the moment of presidential candidate registration.” The statement was posted on Abdullah’s Fb web page on 23 Might, but the date in the assertion is 1 Jawza (22 Might) – see it right here in Dari.