Saturday, November 08, 2003

AFGHAN CONSTITUTION: Brian Ulrich has some comments on the draft constitution and he plays down the hype about a "Taliban-lite" regime. Several people have responded differently to the heavier Islamic tone, in contrast to earlier constitutions, that this draft caries. An Iranian friend of mine was heavily disappointed and told me he'd absolutely wanted to make sure that Iran's future government would be one with a separation between state and mosque. All by all, I disagree with Brian. It's much fuzz, although seriously legitimate fuzz, about little. Keep an eye, though, on the Supreme Court, which has the ability to interpret the laws coming out of the legislative organ. (If Iran comes to your mind, there's a valid reason for it.)

Anyway, this Economist article is spot on (although I disagree that "the 1964 constitution... set the country on the path to 23 years of war") and much in sync with Amin Tarzi's analyse.

The constitution will also lay out the framework for next year's elections (likely to be pushed back now, from summer to autumn). The monarchy is out for good, though the present king will keep his title of "Father of the Country". In the monarch's place will be a directly elected president and a bicameral legislature. The constitution differs from its American model in being avowedly centralised. Afghanistan is too weak, the drafters think, to tolerate federalism just yet.

How might all this play out? The finer points of the draft will probably be the subject of wearisome debate by December, as different groups ready themselves for the elections. Politicking has already begun, which is perhaps good news in a country where disputes have for so long been solved by violence. The ex-communists will rebrand themselves on the left. A monarchist party will appear on the right. In the centre will be a loose movement of self-styled 'national unity' headed by Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president. The only credible threat to this centrist block might come from the possible creation of a jihadi party made up of former anti-Soviet guerrillas with conservative social views, bankrolled by Tajiks and headed by a sellable Pushtun.

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