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Cablegate: Parliament's Absentee Mp Problem

VZCZCXRO7091
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2245 2360537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230537Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5215
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 002245

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT'S ABSENTEE MP PROBLEM

REF: A. KABUL 2175
B. KABUL 1193

1. (SBU) Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the
National Assembly) has failed to make quorum on more than
half of its business days since its new legislative session
began July 22. Moreover, members lose quorum before they
finish the day's business on many other occasions. The poor
attendance record consistently leaves the National Assembly
unable to resolve conflicts and vote on legislation, stalling
progress on important issues ranging from the elections law
to funding the country's higher education system. Recent
attempts by the Lower House's staff to shame members into
reporting for work may have had some effect -- one day after
the names of 21 chronically absent MPs appeared in the media,
a nearly full house gathered for a mundane discussion of the
Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS).

2. (SBU) After passing two bills in its opening week in late
July, the Lower House has not been able to hold votes on any
bill and is only occasionally able to muster the attendance
necessary for non-binding resolutions in the current session.
In the meantime, without the ability to vote on and settle
issues, minor disputes drag on long after exhausting
productive debate (ref A). Committees, too, have had trouble
with absenteeism, making it difficult to resolve disputes
over legislation before the subject is brought up on the
house floor. As seen with last session's walkout by
non-Pashtun MPs over a Kuchi Pashtun's ethno-nationalist
remarks (ref B), MPs will also break quorum to antagonize
their opponents or block unfavorable measures from reaching a
vote. The Upper House, which is less powerful and mainly
ratifies decisions made in the Lower House, also has
difficulty making quorum on most days. Members of both
houses include several former warlords, who others say lack
the interest to attend sessions regularly and actively
participate in the day-to-day business of legislating.

3. (SBU) Parliament staff working closely with Lower House
Speaker Yunus Qanooni began naming absent MPs this week in an
effort to shame them in to showing up. Staff reported more
than 60 MPs had regularly missed sessions throughout August,
while others make only cursory morning visits as the Lower
House begins one of its three weekly sessions, then return
home before lunch. Still other MPs are nowhere to be found
-- some suspected of requesting asylum in Europe, some likely
on lengthy summer vacations. However, Qanooni's efforts are
couched in political strategy. Among the 21 names he
released this week is Abdul Qaum Karzai, brother of President
Karzai, while many major players in Qanooni's opposition
United Front coalition escaped the public exposure despite
equally poor attendance. In any case, the effort produced a
short-term victory as powerbrokers Burhanuddin Rabbani
(Jamiat party leader and a former president) and Ustad Rasoul
Sayyaf (a former Northern Alliance warlord) joined other
long-absent MPs for Wednesday's ANDS discussion, an
encouraging display of responsiveness to potentially negative
media coverage.
WOOD

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