News You Really Need To See: “Afghan Elections: One Year On and Still No Government”

“Afghan Elections: One Year On and Still No Government”

BBC News, April 7, 2015

“Afghanistan still does not have a full government a year after the presidential election. On 5 April 2014 voters went to the polls in a carnival atmosphere, despite heavy rain.  But more than two-thirds of cabinet posts are still unfilled.  The decision by President Ghani to suspend all provincial governors and police chiefs has led to the further stagnation of government across the country.  The reformist governor of Nangarhar province in the east has resigned from the post because he was left without the power he needed to do his job. … It’s the same story in the province of Herat, the gateway to Iran, at the western end of Afghanistan’s most important trade route.  Stagnation here following the suspension from office of most senior officials has provoked the former governor Ismail Khan to actively campaign against President Ghani’s government.  Khan was a prominent commander in the jihadi war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.  He and other ex-jihadi commanders say they are locked out of government, and are a formidable opposition to the technocratic moderniser who is now president.  But President Ghani is also losing support among those who previously backed him. … MPs like Helai Ershad say that far from establishing a reformist government, [President Ghani] has had to make alliances with men she described as ‘a bunch of mujahidin’.  She said that the problems began when the international community persuaded Ghani to share power with Abdullah Abdullah, the opponent he narrowly defeated in a contested election.  Since both men have two deputies, there are six separate powerbases to satisfy in making appointments. … Since there are no political parties in Afghanistan, a country where patronage is the main driver of power, the jockeying for position has gone on.”

Quickie analysis:  Governments based on a patronage system can work, but patronage systems with competing patrons rarely do.  Moreover, history suggests a power vacuum, particularly in Afghanistan, will not remain unfilled for long.

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