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Afghan Loya Jirga a Democratic Failure, Says Think Tank - 2002-08-01


A Brussels-based think tank said Afghan President Hamid Karzai's election was a critical short-term success for the nation that was achieved at the cost of a massive compromise of democratic principles. The International Crisis Group has released a report, saying Afghan and foreign decision-makers ignored irregularities at the Loya Jirga, the traditional Afghan assembly, for the sake of "concerns for short-term stability."

Loya Jirga delegates The report said the Loya Jirga was supposed to be an opportunity for some 1,500 elected delegates to vote for a transitional president and government, while approving the structure of government and key personnel.

But it says votes to approve the government structure did not take place at all, ministers were appointed, and Mr. Karzai was elected in a secret vote. The report said Mr. Karzai's election was "perfunctory" because serious rivals for power were eliminated behind the scenes by using U.N. and U.S. pressures. It said his election missed the opportunity to assert civilian leadership, promote democratic expression and draw authority away from warlords. However, the report acknowledges that the Loya Jirga did succeed in electing a popular head of state without any violence, which it says is unprecedented in Afghan history.

The report said Mr. Karzai's government faces enormous challenges in the next two years. They are listed as getting a new constitution approved, preparing grounds for free and fair elections, training and deploying the country's national army and implementing a multi-billion dollar reconstruction program

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