The New York Times , October 23, 2005

Islamists and Mujahedeen Secure Victory in Afghan Vote

249-seat Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Parliament, will be made up of religious figures or former fighters, including four former Taliban commanders


KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 21 - More than a month after the elections, nearly all provisional results have finally been released for Afghanistan's Parliament and provincial assemblies, cementing a victory for Islamic conservatives and the jihad fighters involved in the wars of the past two decades.

At least half of the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Parliament, will be made up of religious figures or former fighters, including four former Taliban commanders. About 50 of the men elected fall into a broad category of independents, or educated professionals, and 11 are former Communists. Women have taken 68 seats - slightly more than the 25 percent representation guaranteed under the new electoral system.

It is far from clear how voting blocs will form, because the election system sidelined political parties, and most candidates ran as independents. But political analysts predict a deeply divided and confrontational body. Women may have a moderating influence but are also likely to be divided by region and ethnicity, the analysts said.

Even with such a Parliament, President Hamid Karzai is likely to be able to push through most bills and appointments. He can rely to some degree on support from his fellow Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in the country, who will control more than 100 seats. With backing from educated professionals and some other independents, that may prove to be enough support for all but the most controversial issues.

Ms Joya rose to national prominence when she criticised the role of warlords in Afghanistan at a conference to approve the new constitution in 2003.

As a result she faced death threats and had to campaign under tight security. However, her criticisms found favour with her constituency in the western province that borders Iran.

Five seats for parliament were allocated for Farah province, with one reserved for a woman. Ms Joya finished second in the poll with 7,813 votes.

I am very happy, its a proud day for me, Ms Joya said.

I hope by being a member of parliament I will be able to serve my people, especially the women. I will do my best to stop the warlords and criminals from building any laws that will jeopardise the rights of Afghan people, especially the women, she said.
The Times (London), October 7, 2005

Yet he will have to work with powerful political figures. Among the winners are some of the prominent men of the past two decades of war and turbulent politics. Leaders of two mujahedeen, or jihadi, parties that fought the Soviet occupation - former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of Jamiat-i-Islami, and Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, leader of Ittehad-e-Islami - won seats, as did a number of their supporters. The two have backed Mr. Karzai recently, but their loyalty is not assured because they have much in common with the opposition: support for the mujahedeen who fought the jihad, conservative values and a demand for the northern ethnic groups to receive a fair share of power.

In opposition are two of the most prominent figures in Kabul: the Shiite Hazara leader Muhammad Mohaqeq and the Tajik politician Yunus Qanooni. Both are former ministers who left Mr. Karzai's cabinet to run against him for president last year. Between them, and with the supporters of the Uzbek leader Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, they may form a majority that could block the approval of ministers and important bills.

The big cities, in particular Kabul and Herat, have more educated professionals winning seats, but even in Kabul Province half of the 33 seats have been won by jihadi figures.

One notable exception is Ramazan Bashardost, who, his Web site says, earned a doctorate in economics at Toulouse University in France and served briefly in Mr. Karzai's cabinet. Since then, he has become a vociferous critic of government corruption and the lack of accountability of nongovernmental organizations and other agencies that have been managing the billions of dollars of international aid to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bashardost, who came in third in voting in Kabul with 8 percent, is one of the few candidates who won support on the basis of a populist message. He pitched a tent in Shar-i-Nau Park in Kabul and delivered daily diatribes by megaphone, capitalizing on the sense of disappointment among Afghans over corruption and the slowness of reconstruction.

Another popular candidate was Malalai Joya, 26, who became famous at the first loya jirga, or tribal assembly, in 2002 when she denounced as criminals the powerful jihadi leaders and commanders who many blame for the destructive factional fighting of the 1990's. She came in second in her home province, Farah, with 7.3 percent of the vote.

Other women have also shown they can compete with men, with at least six winning seats on their own, without the need of the quota system.

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