Joint Meeting between the parliament and the civil society
The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) held a meeting with the MPs, university lecturers, civil society activists, representatives from the political parties and legal experts on July 2, 2018, to review the performance of the National Assembly in the 16th legislative period. Afghanistan is approaching the 17th parliamentary elections. Therefore, reviewing the performance 16th parliament can pave the ground for analyzing the vulnerability of the parliament and making specific recommendations to strengthen the 17th parliament. The 16th parliament commenced its work in 2010. It has been 8 years since the 16th parliament began its 16th legislative period. This report sketches out the performance 16th parliament. A. A review of the Parliament The meeting participants believed that the 16th parliament had a series of shortcomings. However, the parliament passed several bills and had been relatively active in raising public demands but its serious shortcomings and continuous dysfunction negatively impinged upon public perception of the parliament. Members of parliament were elected by the people and their abilities and inabilities directly link with the people. It means social-political developments are prerequisites for the formation of an efficient parliament. Therefore, the country needs to focus on the social-political development of the society and rule of law in order to have an efficient parliament. B. Achievements The participants stated, “However, defending the performance of 16th parliament is hard but we can’t ignore its achievements. The existence of the parliament as one of the third branches of the government is an achievement. The existence of a bad parliament is better than lack of a parliament. Additionally, the number of bills which have been made and passed by the parliament over the past 8 years has helped in upholding rule of law. Oversight the state expenditures through approving the national budget were the important achievements made by the 16th parliament.
C. Shortcomings The participants named the following shortcomings as major shortcomings of 16th parliament: 1. Ignoring the value of legislation: legislation is the main duty of parliament but some members of the parliament didn’t value it and believed that legislation is not the top priority. Most MPs are not aware of the details of legislative documents such as bills and draft laws. 2. Lack of professional scrutiny of the bills: A large number of bills are not scrutinized accurately before putting them to a vote. The parliamentary committees refrain from consulting with the research organizations and universities with regard to contents of bills. The Afghan parliament lack a professional research center to research about the bills and give consultation to members of parliament regarding them. Moreover, a substantial number of lawmakers lack the efficient legal knowledge to make accurate bills or laws. 3. Lack of a pursuing mechanism: Most question cases and public demands are just raised not pursued to eventuate. 4. Differences between the houses of parliament: The differences between 2 houses of the Afghan parliament have negatively impinged upon the dignity of the parliament. Moreover, these differences have paved the ground for the government to interfere in the affairs related to the parliament. 5. Weakness before legislative decrees: The president has issued plenty of illegal legislative decrees (Particularly the president of the National Unity Government) but the parliament has never taken a stance with regard to the legitimacy of these decrees. It has only debated the contents of these decrees. However, most of these decrees have been issued in contradiction with article 79th of the constitution. The number of decrees is very high and according to the Lawyers Associations, 14 decrees have been issued in a day. 6. Fear of selective senators from the fury of the government: It has negatively impinged upon the performance of the Meshrano Jirga and the whole parliament. 7. Unawareness of article 90th of the constitution: Based on article 90th of the constitution, the National Assembly of Afghanistan has the authority of making, amending, or revoking the legislative decrees. The 16th parliament didn’t use these authorities well. 8. Sequence absence of MPs: The quorum of both houses of the parliament (Specially Wolesi Jirga) were occasionally incomplete. There were lack of quorum in most sessions. 9. Weakness of parliamentary groups: However, there is an abundance of parliamentary groups in the Afghan parliament but these groups have been unable to impact on the political situation of the country or the parliamentary votes.
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