Afghanistan’s Karzai, UN call for national unity government

afghanpollwikicommonsAfghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that his successor must be chosen soon to “salvage the country,” which appeared to grow more volatile as the day progressed, the Washington Post reports:

In a rare public statement since he has been forced to postpone his departure from office, Karzai addressed hundreds of Afghan leaders gathered in the capital to honor a slain guerrilla commander. Karzai pleaded with the audience to join him in pressuring Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to put aside their differences so they can form a national unity government.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a similar appeal to both of them to work together for a speedy settlement of the political crisis, VOA reports:

In a statement, he noted that in the U.S.-mediated deal in early July, both the candidates agreed to accept the nationwide audit of the presidential runoff results and form a government of national unity. It added that with the main audit completed last week and the announcement of updated results anticipated shortly, the Secretary-General expected the presidential hopefuls to now abide by their commitments to enable Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of power. 

Perhaps the most significant step is to continue encouraging the creation of a national unity government in which the winning candidate integrates key supporters of the loser’s side, notes SethJones, director of the RAND Corporation’s International Security and Defense Policy Center, and author of “In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan.”

This would include appointing supporters to key cabinet posts or provincial governor positions. It might also involve the losing candidate selecting a chief executive officer in a new administration, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Most important, the U.S. and other NATO countries need to emphasize that their continued economic and military assistance to Afghanistan is contingent on a resolution of the political crisis. It makes little sense for the U.S. to sign a bilateral security agreement with a country that can’t even agree on its leader.

It would be a tragedy if one or both sides allowed the disputed election to fracture the country and increase the odds of a Taliban military victory—an outcome that neither side wants, and that would harm the Afghan population most of all.


Afghanistan: UN urges respect for poll audit as process resumes





The process to check thousands of ballot boxes in the Afghan presidential election run-off is now underway after several delays, the United Nations mission in the country confirmed, calling for local commitment to complete the audit without any more postponements, according to reports.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan ( UNAMA ) “urged the full commitment of the parties for the unprecedented and vital endeavour that should be completed without any further delays and interruptions.”

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), under whose authority the audit is being carried out, with international supervision, resumed the process on 3 August, following the Eid holiday, but without the participation of representatives of one of the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah.

Dr. Abdullah’s campaign, the Reform and Partnership Team, rejoined the process today after having sought clarification on the audit, for which the UN has been jointly requested, by the two candidates, to coordinate international supervision.

Meanwhile, more than 200 full-time international observers — hailing from the European Union and including its Election Assessment Team and the American non-governmental organizations National Democratic Institute, Democracy International, as well as Asian Network for Free Elections, are now in auditing warehouses in the capital.


Despite political turmoil, emerging consensus in Ukraine

ukrainesolidarnoscGlobal attention remains focused on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, especially in the wake of the tragic downing of the Malaysian commercial airliner MH17, David Klion writes for World Politics Review.

But in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the ongoing war with Russia is only one of several competing priorities. Attempts to restructure and reform Ukraine’s troubled economy have led to a series of political earthquakes. Two weeks ago, the governing coalition, which had been assembled after the Maidan protests drove former President Viktor Yanukovych from power, was dissolved, and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk offered his resignation. Then last week, Yatsenyuk’s resignation was rejected by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. At first glance, the infamously dysfunctional Rada appears to be as chaotic as ever, even as Ukraine struggles to maintain control of its eastern regions.

But the situation in Kiev may be more stable than it seems. The backdrop for the Rada’s shakeup is a promise made by Ukraine’s newly elected President Petro Poroshenko to hold new parliamentary elections. The public has been demanding a new government ever since Yanukovych fled Ukraine with single-digit approval ratings, but according to Ukraine’s constitution, Poroshenko cannot dissolve the Rada and call for elections unless the ruling coalition collapses. This means the major parties that make up the post-Maidan coalition—former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna, boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR and the far-right Oleh Tyahnybok’s Svoboda—have to part ways and compete against each other in elections, likely to take place in October, with the expectation that their cumulative support will grow vis-a-vis Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Joanna Rohozinska, senior program officer for Eastern Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy, predicts that UDAR and Svoboda stand to gain the most from new elections.

“These two parties have captured the populist mood of the Maidan,” she says. By contrast, Batkivschina is losing support because Tymoshenko “hasn’t been playing a particularly constructive role. Many people see her as out of touch with political reality since leaving prison. She’s considered a member of the old order.”


Tunisia’s race against time

TUNISIA UGTTThe birthplace of the Arab Spring is sometimes described as the only democratic nation in the Middle East and North Africa. In order to retain this distinction and uphold its new constitution, however, a legitimate voting process needs to be held this year, Christine Petré writes for Middle East Eye:

After a long debate between Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party over procedural issues (it is lobbying to hold legislative elections first), and the opposition’s preference (to hold the presidential vote first), the National Constituent Assembly has finally agreed: parliamentary elections will be held on October 26 this year, and the vote for a president on November 23, leaving time for a second round of voting, if need be, before the year ends.

So far, so good, but then began a hectic period for the country’s Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) in its fight against the clock. In the period of the month leading up to 22 July, new voters needed to register to vote. In a push to increase the number of registrations the ISIE has now announced that a second registration period will be held from August 5 to August 26. People who voted in the last elections in 2011 did not need to re-register, except for those among them allowed to vote at the last minute, principally to help boost official figures of the final turnout.

”Since the ousting of Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, this small Mediterranean country has driven a bumpy road towards democratic stability, facing a number of security threats from radical religious fractions,” Petré notes. ”How the country is able to handle its next elections could prove an important indicator of how democratic its future might be.” RTWT

Jokowi’s rise and Indonesia’s second democratic transition

indonesia etcThis year, three of the world’s largest democracies are holding national elections — vast polls spread over several days and thousands of miles of territory, involving more than a billion voters, notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Joshua Kurlantzick.

“The third election, Indonesia’s presidential vote on July 9, has been mostly ignored by the international media, even though Indonesia, with a population of about 250 million, ranks as the fourth-­largest country in the world, as well as the biggest economy in Southeast Asia,” he writes for the New York Times.

“It is simply impossible to understand the staggering changes Indonesia has undergone since the end of the 1990s, including decentralization, a rapid transition to democracy and growing relationships with both China and the United States, without truly considering how decisions are made in Jakarta and other major urban centers,” he argues in a review of Elizabeth Pisani’s Indonesia, etc., Exploring the Improbable Nation:  

Instead, Pisani falls back on easy clichés about Jakarta, reform and the population itself. She deplores the rapid change and construction in the seemingly soulless capital, without seriously examining the positive aspects of all this growth, a strange omission for a public health specialist. She disdains the pork-barrel politics that come with greater direct democracy, as politicians jostle to deliver projects to their districts and sometimes skim a percentage for themselves. But this kind of patronage is necessarily curtailed by the transparency of democracy, and in the long run far healthier than the opaque and unreconstructed Suharto period. (Pisani herself acknowledges that in the latter part of Suharto’s time, “all the growth” went “into a handful of pockets,” though she still paints a fairly rosy picture of the Suharto era.) She too often portrays Indonesians as accepting their fate in life, a fatalism not apparent in this spring’s parliamentary elections, when Indonesian voters tossed out about half the incumbents. RTWT

Jokowi’s rise marks the beginning of Indonesia’s second democratic transition, says a key expert.

“A new political voting class in Indonesia is now beginning to emerge that is keen to play a role in the country’s democratic politics, is well-informed of issues and interests, and expects a government that is accountable,” according to Vibhanshu Shekhar, Scholar-in-Residence at the ASEAN Studies Center, American University.

A new political voting class in Indonesia is now beginning to emerge that is keen to play a role in the country’s democratic politics, is well-informed of issues and interests, and expects a government that is accountable,” he writes for the East-West Center’s Asia Pacific Bulletin:

They are assertively pushing forward an agenda of good governance and transparent leadership that is reform-oriented and free of corruption. They treat democracy as intrinsically ingrained in their identity and place a premium on transparency and accountability. As their expectations are going up, this new-emerging techno-savvy voter bloc is demanding effective responses from the political elite over various issues, such as countering corruption, addressing current economic challenges, and a more responsive government. Their continuing frustration with political parties is evident from the fact that no single party received more than 20 percent of votes in the April general elections. On the other hand, Jokowi’s lackluster and commoner’s image attracted their attention, and their vote. 

“Rules of the game in Indonesian politics have become more democratic with political parties, institutions and citizens adhering to democratic norms,” he notes.

Nevertheless, a “rough road lies ahead for the Jokowi presidency, particularly in the legislative body that will offer strong resistance from the conservative elite to any effort to introduce more democratic change and politico-economic reforms. Now that voters have had their say, the difficult act of balancing various political forces and factions will require deft diplomacy.” RTWT