Monday, January 4, 2010

Karzai nominations slammed, rejected by Parliament

In a truly surprising move, the Afghan Parliament rejected 17 out of Karzai's 24 nominees for the Cabinet. In doing so, they sent a powerful message to Karzai that his days as quasi-director may be coming to an end.

Of the seven that were confirmed, five were incumbent ministers, and are generally supported by the United States. All passed by narrow margins, with none winning the support of two thirds of Parliament.

So what to make of this? There's the view of MP Barakzai (Kabul):

"Those who came as a representative of a group, they failed," Ms. Barakzai said. "I hope it will be a good lesson for President Karzai that when the issue of reform comes, he is not alone; the members of Parliament really want reform. It was the moderates and the technocrats who got the vote of confidence."

This would be the optimistic perspective. It rests on the assumption that there are enough technocrats and MPs voting on principle that they can hold Karzai's corruption in line this term. However, the New York Times suggested that ethnic politics might have also been at play.

Either way, watching the Parliament demonstrate such independence from Karzai is a sign that Afghanistan is embracing separation of powers. In our society, that leads to constant paralysis, and blocks most attempts at meaningful reform. In Afghanistan, hopefully it will instead lead to to the birth of political culture that embraces progress and reform, and ultimately the election of someone other than Karzai and his ilk next election, five years from now.

While there's no question that some of his nominees were human rights abusing warlords, my impression was that their nominations were meant to win political support in hard to control areas of the country. What a mess, what a mess. Happy Saturday night all.

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