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On a power trip

Zafar Shah Rouyee
Weeks after US Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a power-sharing agreement between rival Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, a coalition government is yet to be announced, with…
4.09.2014  |  Kabul

Afghanistan remains without a government as the two presidential candidates and their camps continue to disagree over the terms of forming a unity government. Abdullah Abdullah's Reform and Partnership Team coalition have threatened again to withdraw from the process. Abdullah's team says the national vote audit, overseen by the US and international observers, is “not on the right track” and is taking too long.


“Our deadline is tomorrow. If our logical demands are not met and the recount process is not done with transparency, we will abandon political negotiations over the establishment of a unity government and the recount process,” Fazel Sancharaki, a spokesman for Abdullah's camp, told reporters.


Abdullah supporters seeing red


Atta Noor, the influential Balkh governor and an Abdullah supporter, went even further, calling on his followers to take to the streets if the impasse isn't resolved soon. “I urge all those who share our belief and path to be prepared for green and orange movements,” said Noor earlier this week on his Facebook page. Green and orange are codewords for different stages of non-violent demonstrations. A spokesman for Ghani's Evolution and Continuity Team warned that such language could lead to violent clashes between supporters: “We should be aware that green could turn into black and orange into red,” said Fayzullah Zaki.

L-R) Abdullah Abdullah, John Kerry and Ashraf Ghani. (Photo: US Embassy in Kabul)


Assistant US Secretary of State Doug Frantz travelled to Kabul on Tuesday to “convey the (US) Administration’s full support for a peaceful and democratic transfer of power and emphasize the priority Secretary Kerry places on an audit process that ensures a legitimate outcome and agreement on the details of a government of national unity,”, according to a statement by the US State Department.

Frantz's diplomatic efforts follow an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State Kerry last month to recount all votes from the June 14 second ballot in this year's presidential election. At the time, both Ghani and Abdullah agreed to a power sharing government. A National Unity Commission was established to negotiate the allocation of key government positions, an issue that continues to be a thorn in the coalition-building process.


Not enough spoils for everyone


One key issue of contention is who will hold the position of chief executive of the cabinet. Ahmad Zia Massoud says Ashraf Ghani promised him the position in return for support before the second round of voting. But Abdullah's camp is also laying claim to the head of the cabinet. Both camps accuse each other of unlawfulness and inflexibility.


Local media highlighted the struggle for key government positions as the root of the current political impasse. “The main challenge in the elections is monopoly – something both candidates are after. Both candidates talked about winning and see winning as a right for their supporters,” wrote Hasht-e Subh, Afghanistan's largest daily, in a commentary piece.


“Both parties are fighting for their own interests and they will use any possible means to gain more,” says Jamay-e Baz Daily. “In this political game in Afghanistan, threat is an inseparable part of the game,” writes author Rahim Hamidi in the daily.


Analysts discussing the political deadlock on current affairs shows stressed that the stalemate cannot last forever. “Assistant Secretary of State Frantz came to Kabul and the leadership of both teams know that they cannot govern Afghanistan on their own. They have no choice but to reach an agreement,” said Mohammad Ali Akhlaqi, an MP talking on a round table Rah-e Farda TV. “If the winning team attempts to build a government on their own, it will lead to large scale demonstrations and both candidates are well aware of it.”


Peace map or road to war?


Others fear both camps will obstruct the formation of a government until their demands are fulfilled. “Afghanistan is facing an economic and security crisis due to the elections, but both candidates do not really care about it. Both candidates will not back down unless their main demands are met,” said Mansour Ansari, a civil society activist also participating on the Rah-e Farda round table.


“The process is going on well under the supervision of national and international monitors and at the request of both campaign teams,” said Fahim Naimi, spoeksman for the Free and Fair Election Foundation (FEFA), an organisation that monitors the election. talking on Ariana TV. But Naimi also warned all parties that an agreement is needed to ensure the country does not reach a standstill. “The legitimacy of this process without a political settlement cannot end,” said Naimi.