Deputy presidential spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi on Thursday announced that the national unity government has finalized the appointment of leaders for the Electoral Reform Commission, adding that now President Ashraf Ghani will focus on setting the timeline for parliamentary elections.
Following the expiration of Parliament’s constitutionally allotted term, President Ghani had pledged to establish a timeframe for parliamentary elections within one month. But with just three days left until the end of the deadline, still no date for the elections has been announced.
“Members of the electoral reform commission have been appointed,” deputy spokesman Hashemi said on Thursday. “Shah Sultan Akifi has been appointed as chairman of the commission and Sediqullah Tawhidi as deputy chairman.”
Earlier this spring, disputes between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah over the composition of the electoral reform commission caused a major rift within the national unity government as well as backlash about its ability to work cohesively to address the country’s most pressing issues, such as electoral reform. In the wake of last year’s tumultuous presidential election, Abdullah drew a redline on the subject of electoral reform, making it a central commitment of the national unity government and the cause he would champion.
“Disagreements between the leaders of the national unity government are preventing them from announcing the date of parliamentary elections,” head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada said.
Some civil society members are encouraged by the news that the reform commission’s leaders have been selected. “The transparency of parliamentary elections depends on the establishment of an electoral reform commission and evaluation of the electoral reforms commission,” Civil Society Association head Jandad Spinghar said.
Beyond reform, the next parliamentary elections face additional challenges in the forms of security threats and limited financial resources. Western officials have recently warned that the international community will cut off financial and logistical support for Afghanistan’s elections if fundamental reforms are not pursued.
Abdullah’s office on Thursday released a press statement confirming that he and Ghani had come to an agreement on the formation of the electoral reform commission. The statement said the commission would include representatives from the two camps of the national unity government, civil society groups, election monitoring institutions and the United Nations.
According to the release, the commission’s members include Saleh Mohammad Registani, Sabrina Saqib, Kawoon Kakar, Mohammad Ali Amiri, Abdul Qadir Karyab, Mohammad Bashir Farooq, Assadullah Saadati, Faizullah Zaki, Shah Mahmoud Miakhail, Dr. Alima, Abdul Majid Ghanizada and UN representative Tadamichi Yamamoto.