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Asia-pacific

Tug of war over Karzai's cabinet nominees intensifies

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-01-05

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered parliament to delay its winter recess so lawmakers can consider his cabinet nominees. Previous nominees had been rejected, leaving the country without a fully functioning government.

AFP - Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered parliament Monday to cancel its winter recess so lawmakers can consider his new cabinet nominees, his office said, as NATO announced its first deaths of the year.
  
Four US troops and a British soldier were killed in two separate roadside bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
  
NATO and the US have 113,000 troops in Afghanistan battling Taliban-led insurgents aiming to overthrow Karzai's fragile administration.
  
Karzai's decree ordered that the legislature should delay its 45-day recess until he proposes new ministers in place of those rejected by parliamentarians on Saturday, his office said in a statement.
  
It ordered "the national assembly to postpone leave until the members of the cabinet are approved".
  
Parliament had been due to break on Tuesday.
  
Of the 24 names Karzai put forward for cabinet portfolios, only seven won approval in a secret ballot of 232 of the 249 lawmakers.
  
The rejections effectively leave Afghanistan without a fully functioning government, dragging out a political vacuum that has prevailed since an August presidential election.
  
The president "issued the decree under Article 107 of the Afghan constitution in a bid to complete, as soon as possible, the cabinet and prevent obstruction of government work," the statement said.
  
The decree appears to be recognition that Karzai is running out of time to prove his stated commitment to a clean and competent government, as the international community has given him until the middle of the year to show progress.
  
"He cannot afford to lose six weeks," said a Western diplomat, speaking on condition that he not be named.
  
"Karzai brought this on himself, and it was widely anticipated that the parliament would reject the majority of his nominees, but it is heartening to see that he is using the constitution to get over this potential deadlock."
  
Ahead of an international conference scheduled to take place in London on January 28, to deliberate the war-torn country's future, Kabul's ministries are being run by junior bureaucrats who have little power and no coherent plan.
  
Parliament member Shukria Barakzai said the new list of 17 names to replace those who were tossed out should be presented to parliament within days.
  
"I think the parliament will get it done rather quickly because the London conference is due soon," she said, adding however: "There are no guarantees that the new names will be passed".
  
She said the process of presenting and voting on the new nominees would take about one week.
  
Western diplomats, including the UN's special representative, Kai Eide, have said parliament's rejection of Karzai's cabinet choices is an obstacle on Afghanistan's road to democratic governance.
  
But they concede it has shown the parliament to be a functioning institution that refused to be cowed by vested interests.
  
The seven ministerial nominees who did win approval included those who had been approved by Karzai's supporters in the international community as competent and clean technocrats.
  
A second Western diplomat said that as these represented the dominant ministries -- including interior, defence, agriculture and education -- Karzai could credibly attend the London conference with only these seats filled.
  
"But with that deadline of the US mid-term elections looming, when the Americans will start to think seriously about continuing their support, Karzai needs all the time he can get to show progress and keep the spiggots open," he said, also speaking anonymously.
  
The US and NATO are sending in an extra 40,000 troops over the course of this year, even as public opinion turns increasingly against continued engagement following more than 500 foreign troop deaths in 2009.
  
The first deaths of 2010 -- four Americans and one Briton -- were all victims of roadside bombs, which have become the biggest killers of foreign troops fighting the Taliban.
  
Their deaths follow the killing last week of seven American CIA agents in a suicide attack inside a military base and four Canadian soldiers and a journalist in a roadside bombing. Both attacks were claimed by the Taliban.

Date created : 2010-01-05

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