Cablegate: Parliament Discusses Options for Presidential

DE RUEHBUL #3012/01 3230340
P 180340Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. KABUL 2832
B. KABUL 601

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Members of Parliament continue to debate
the timing for next year's presidential election, many of
them for political motives. Caught between certain legal
provisions to hold the election as soon as March and the
reality of logistical and climate challenges to doing so, MPs
have proposed a variety of solutions. Since Lower House
Speaker Yunus Qanooni allowed the discussion to re-enter
parliamentary debate last month, MPs have solidified their
calls for a "legal mechanism" to schedule an agreeable date
for the election and replace the now-evaporated political
consensus for a fall 2009 timeframe. President Karzai and UN
SRSG Kai Eide recently discussed both constitutional and
technical problems with the election date, but did not reach
a conclusion on how to move forward. This cable discusses
some of the options MPs have proposed. None of these options
provides a clear way out of the disagreement over elections

Election Timing Issues Resurfaces

2. (SBU) The Independent Election Commission announced on
April 9 that presidential and provincial council elections
would be held in the autumn. But some MPs have renewed the
debate. Many of them are consistent Karzai opponents, but
nearly all MPs agree that fall elections are unconstitutional
without some legal provision clearing the way. Even
generally pro-Karzai MPs have taken a stand against delaying
elections until the autumn, framing their position as a
defense of the Constitution.

3. (SBU) As discussed in reftels, Article 61 of the Afghan
Constitution ends the president's term in May and calls for
elections 30-60 days beforehand. The Constitution delegates
logistical management of the election to the Independent
Election Commission. The IEC, international donors, and
Afghan political leaders reached a consensus in April 2008
that an election would be held in late 2009, in part by using
language in Article 33 that "all Afghans have the right to
elect and be elected" to justify postponing elections until
the completion of voter registration. Karzai's political
opponents, led by Lower House Speaker Qanooni, believed the
president's re-election chances would increase the longer he
stayed in office. The lack of a written agreement
memorializing the April consensus allowed them to re-open the

4. (SBU) Karzai met Kai Eide in early November to discuss the
issue. Eide informed Karzai that Supreme Court Chief Justice
Azimi sided with Qanooni's interpretation of the Constitution
and urged him to reach out to influential MPs to resolve the
issue. We understand Karzai spoke with Qanooni and met with
Lower House Deputy Speaker Mirwais Yasini (Nangarhar,

Five Bad Choices

5. (SBU) There are five solutions in play:

- Elections by April. Karzai's strongest critics, such
as MP Rahman Oghly (Faryab, Uzbek), back elections as soon as
possible. The Constitution's Article 61 ends the president's
term on May 21, 2009. Elections must precede this date by
30-60 days. The fact that the 2004 election and Karzai,s
inauguration were both delayed is not material to the timing
of the 2009 election. To pull off elections by this date,
voter registration would need to be compressed, and
significant overlaps in voter registration, candidate
registration, and campaigning would occur. IEC staff have
told MPs this option is logistically not feasible, but the
IEC's poor relations with Parliament's leadership have kept
this option alive.

- Call a Loya Jirga. Under the Constitution, the
government can convene a Loya Jirga in times of "supreme
national interest." MPs like Abdul Qayum Sajadi (Ghazni,
Hazara) interpret this to include the debate over elections
timing. However, organizing a Loya Jirga presents many
logistical challenges and constitutional hurdles. Loya Jirga
delegates would come from Parliament, provincial councils,
and district councils, the latter of which have yet to be
elected. Because a Loya Jirga sets its own agenda, it could

KABUL 00003012 002 OF 002

open up the entire Constitution to amendment. It is even
possible delegates would not use the Loya Jirga for setting
an elections date, but to name a new president in lieu of
elections. Supporters for this option include Pashtuns who
say the security situation in southern and eastern provinces
is not stable enough to hold an election.

- Declare a State of Emergency. The president can
declare a state of emergency under certain conditions.
Supporters of this option point to "serious rebellion" and
"protection of independence" as constitutionally applicable
scenarios. A state of emergency -- which requires the
approval of Parliament if longer than two months -- could
cover the gap between the end of Karzai's term in May and
likely elections in September. According to Article 147, if
a state of emergency is in place while a presidential term
expires, the term can be extended for four more months.
However, most Karzai opponents reject this option, as a
constitutional state of emergency also gives the president
the right to transfer some of the powers of the legislature
to the executive branch.

- Transitional President. The Constitution assigns the
Speaker of the Upper House as the successor in the absence of
the president and the two vice presidents (whose terms expire
concurrently with that of the president in May). Legal
scholar MP Sayed Alemi Balkhi (Kabul, Hazara) raised this
option recently, saying his United Front allies would not
recognize a Karzai presidency that exceeded its
constitutional term. However, Upper House Speaker
Sebghatullah Mojaddedi is in frail health, confined to his
house, and has been absent from Parliament for much of the
past several months. Next in line should Mojaddedi pass on
the option would be Lower House Speaker Qanooni, the most
prominent public face of the opposition and runner-up to
Karzai in 2004. Karzai's supporters would likely block that

- A Sense of the House Resolution. As a last resort,
several MPs, including Faizullah Zaki (Jowzjan, Uzbek), have
said they would support a "sense of the legislature"
resolution or similar political solution agreeing to a new
election date. In conversations with PolOffs, most MPs
recognize the serious hurdles to holding elections by the
spring. Some are also aware of constitutional issues with
the timing of their own re-elections in 2010, which could
gain more attention if this issue is not dealt with
effectively. Such a resolution would give Parliament a
mechanism for setting a later date, while allowing the IEC
and international technical advisors the time needed to
conduct the elections. Article 33 of the Constitution may
offer legal backing to this option.

Waiting for A New Consensus

6. (SBU) Most MPs recognize the challenges of a spring
election and the importance of holding the most credible,
participatory election possible. But the longer the issue
continues, the harder it will be to resolve.

© Scoop Media

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