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Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:15:32 +0000
(WASHINGTON) -- Over the next few months, Afghans are not only going to see a new president announced but also, U.S. officials said Monday, the blueprint for an entirely new form of government.
Part of the plan agreed to over the weekend when Secretary of State John Kerry was in Kabul was that when a president is announced, there will also be some mechanism put in place for the loser to be a strong part of the government -- at least in the short term.
In the long term, the Afghans will be working towards forming a new type of government altogether that offsets the strength of the president, as wielded by current president Hamid Karzai since he came to power, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Monday.
The details provided on the call were very vague but the impetus for it was a New York Times report that said the loser of the Afghan elections would be appointed an interim “chief executive” that would eventually turn into a prime ministerial role, and that two or three years after the election, there would be a process to revise the Afghan constitution, with details worked out by the Afghans.
But the official on Monday pushed back on technical terms like “parliamentary,” saying that only the broadest strokes of a new government structure had been worked out while Kerry was in town, in the form of a one-page statement agreed to by both the Ghani and Abdullah campaigns.
“It provides a kind of short term basis for what the president will do and how they will get through that transition period and then it will segue into something that has the full support and is institutionalized by the Afghan people,” the official said.
The reason for this change, the official said, is because the Afghan election was so deeply divided along sectarian lines. The official said both candidates -- Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah -- were very concerned about having a strong electoral mandate when elected, and that this was the way they agreed they could make the largest number of Afghan voters feel included in the new government.
The United States will continue to help the Afghans with this process, along with the United Nations, but it will ultimately be up to the Afghans to decide on the specifics of a new government, including whether and how they want to reform the constitution. The official would not give a timeline for interim steps being announced but said both candidates knew they would have to come up with something soon.
Asked how difficult this government reform process will be, given all the problems inherent with just putting on an election in Afghanistan, the official gave a grimly humorous response.
“As a veteran of the 2000 recount in Florida, I can assure you there will be any number of issues that come up,” the official said.
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