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71: Stakeholders block post-election power sharing

Zafar Shah Rouyee
Leading political factions maintain a winner-takes-all attitude to the ongoing power sharing negotiations between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.
18.08.2014  |  Kabul

Pressured by the United States to resolve a legitimacy crisis caused by widespread electoral fraud, the candidates have agreed to abide by the results of an ongoing vote recount. Under the agreement, the winning candidate will still be charged with forming the next government, while the losing candidate will hold limited executive powers in a “unity government.” But this perspective arrangement does not sit well with the political groups around the candidates. In both Abdullah and Ghani’s camps, key figures are voicing concerns that a unity government limits their ability to meet the demands of their supporters, as well as the number of political positions available to them.

While Abdullah and Ghani appear dedicated to their agreement, their influential supporters continue to oppose the deal. Both candidates have offered conflicting interpretations of the accord they signed in front of US Secretary of State John Kerry, but have avoided using harsh words against each other publicly. Their spokesmen have described the ongoing power sharing negotiations as "positive and constructive." The pace of the election audit has also picked up, with over 10,000 ballot boxes, or  45 percent of the total votes recounted. The Election Commission  has even begun the recount of 6,000 contentious ballot boxes many believe could change the results of the second round of the elections. 

But figures like Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of Balkh province and former militia leader who staunchly supports Abdullah, continue to oppose the negotiations. In recent interviews with national and international media, Noor has warned of “civil uprising” if the recount is biased or if Abdullah is not named the winner. Analysts believe that Noor is more jockeying for a position - most probably the same governorship in Balkh- in the next government, than at working to promote the interests of Abdullah's team. 

In recent days, Noor spent most of his time in Kabul, holding meetings with influential officials. Based on posts on his Facebook page, the governor held at least three private meetings with Abdullah in the past five days. His other meetings in the past one week included with U.S. ambassador to Kabul James Cunningham, United Nations envoy Jan Kubis, first vice-president Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Afghan Defence Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi and other political power brokers. 

“I know there are some in both camps who think [power sharing] will not be possible or even that it’s not desirable,” Cunningham told journalists August 11.  His statement indicated U.S. awareness of the challenges Ghani and Abdullah face within their campaign teams, whose members may not allow a power sharing arrangement to materialize.

Uneasy truce

Daud Sultanzoi, a member of Ghani’s campaign team, described a lack of cooperation between members of both presidential campaign teams. “At the lower level, good cooperation within the campaign teams is lacking,” he told Tolo news August 16. “In both teams, there are individuals who believe this lack of cooperation is in their interest.”

Amrullah Saleh, a former National Directorate of Security head and an Abdullah supporter, opposes the formation of a national unity government. On his Facebook wall, Mr. Saleh writes that national unity is a need and a value, but warns against creating “a joint and unaccountable institution.”

The Afghan National Movement, which backed Ghani in the second round of presidential elections, also opposes power-sharing between the two presidential candidates and said that this will send Afghanistan into a crisis. “The people of Afghanistan went to polling stations … despite many threats and problems,” Khan Aqa Ahmadzai, a member of the movement, told journalists August 12. “They do not want any wagering over their votes. Both presidential candidates should void their recent agreement, allowing people’s votes to determine the presidency.”

Experts believe that the close associates of each presidential candidate pose the biggest obstacle to a power-sharing scheme. These individuals “caused the elections to drag on, since challenging the election process allowed them time to bargain,” political analyst Abdul Beseer Faizi said in a roundtable discussion on Tolo news. “These individuals hope to have a role in the future government of Afghanistan and pressure the candidates for this reason. If both candidates do not take specific measures and fail to manage those who surround them properly, the post-election process will even take longer.”

Both teams have stakeholders who are eyeing key ministries and hoping to secure large portions of financial resources and political power, said Shah Hossein Murtazowi, a Kabul-based journalist. “If power is shared, many will be out,” he told Afghanistan Today. “For this reason, they will block the process until the end.”