Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, the most vocal critic of Afghanistan’s electoral system during the 2014 presidential election, on Wednesday spoke at the inauguration ceremony for the new electoral reforms commission, which he endorsed and said embodied the government’s commitment to change.
The launching of the reforms commission comes after months of disputes between President Ashraf Ghani’s camp and Abdullah’s over the composition and charge of the commission.
“One of the main priorities of the people is to reform the electoral system, and the first step has been taken with the start of the commission’s work,” Abdullah said on Wednesday.
The disputes between Abdullah and Ghani over the commission in recent months have not just served to expose persisting divisions within the national unity government, but also caused controversy in delaying the next round of parliamentary elections. Until electoral reforms are pursued, international donors have said, there will be no funding or support for new parliamentary elections.
“The commission’s work is not just a drama and symbolic, but a national commitment, and it has the support of the national unity government and the government will ensure the commission’s performance,” Abdullah said. “The commission members should know that millions of people have lost their trust in the electoral institutions and now they are waiting for the performance of the commission,” he added.
The head of the reforms commission, Shah Sultan Akifi, also spoke at the ceremony. He vowed to be impartial in his work. “Our goal is huge, and in order to bring electoral reform, we will meet the duties that have been given to us with independence and the necessary impartiality, and we will try to use the opinions and perspectives of different groups of people,” he said.
The reforms commission will include a representative of the United Nations named Tadamichi Yamamoto, who spoke at the ceremony on Wednesday. “UNAMA will play an advisory role and fully participate in the commission’s work and we will utilize all our experience and the expertise to provide […] assistance to the commission so that the commission will fulfill its tasks,” Yamamoto said. “We will be a bridge between the international community and we look forward to working together in order to achieve credible reforms with full Afghan ownership.”
The commission will be expected to emerge with proposals for amendments to the national electoral laws, particularly regarding the election commissions, their responsibilities and authorities.