Afghan parliament rejects most Cabinet nominees

Last Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2010 - 23:28

Kabul: Afghanistan`s parliament dealt a
stinging rebuke to President Hamid Karzai on Saturday by rejecting
70 percent of his nominees for a new cabinet, including a
regionally powerful warlord and the country`s only female
minister.

The laborious voting that took much of today ended with
the rejection of 17 of 24 nominees. The nominations, announced
in mid-December, aimed to keep 12 current ministers in their
posts for a second term. In part, that appeared aimed at
satisfying US and Western desires to keep trusted hands in
place.
Among those Karzai wanted to keep was Water and Power
Minister Ismail Khan.

But that raised many hackles because Khan was a warlord
in Herat province during the civil war of the 1990s and
retains considerable local power; critics said keeping Khan
indicated the extent to which Karzai appears to be beholden to
regional power-brokers at the expense of the whole country`s
interests.

Many of his new nominees were also criticised as having
been picked for reasons other than their competency.

"I think, unfortunately, that the criteria were either
ethnicity or bribery or money," lawmaker Fawzia Kufi said
before the voting.

Karzai has said he will make new nominations for the
unfilled posts, but it is unclear when those names will be
announced or a parliamentary vote held.

The rejection of the women`s affairs minister was an
awkward blow to Karzai, who has pledged to place more women in
high government posts in the traditionally male-dominated
society.

Karzai did not propose a nominee for foreign minister.
He has asked incumbent Rangin Dadfar Spanta to stay in the
post until after the January 28 international conference in
London that is to discuss the way forward for Afghanistan.

In another high-stakes political issue, the chief of
Afghanistan`s elections commission said today that a
parliamentary vote will be held in May despite widespread
international concern that the country`s electoral system
needs serious reform.
Elections commission chief Ali Najafi told a news
conference the national vote will be held May 22.

However, he said Afghanistan needs about USD 50 million
from the international community to meet the election`s
estimated budget of USD 120 million. It was not clear whether
the vote would or could be held if donor countries don`t
provide the money.

In the wake of last August`s heavily disputed
presidential election, many critics have pushed Karzai and his
government to delay the parliamentary vote. Karzai has
insisted the constitution, which specifies the elections be
held by May, must be observed.

A US Congressional delegation that met with Karzai in
Kabul last week said it had warned the president that holding
the election without first enacting substantive electoral
reform could undermine support for US aid to the country.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 2, 2010 - 23:28

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